Weekend rambles…

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Happy Sunday everyone! So sorry for not posting for a few days, but I like to wait and post when I’m feeling a bit inspired. I thought I should start this post by responding to the great comments i received on my last post. I feel that I should correct myself though, and just want to say to you guys that I rarely feel like I am in danger living in Thailand. I feel much much safer walking the streets here at night, than i would walking in cities this size at home. I just was trying to get the point across about how terrible the police are here and how untrustworthy they are. I’ve been the victim of petty crime in Bangkok like thieves, but never once felt threatened by any sort of violence. Anyways, the responses I got were sweet and It sure does make me feel good to be cared about so much.

So, It is Sunday evening here in the “Big Mango,” and that old familiar uneasy feeling is starting to creep into the back of my mind as the hours pass leading up to Monday morning. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job, but just the thought of waking to that same old full day’s routine tomorrow in the intense Bangkok Summer heat isn’t exactly thrilling. However, I’ve had a great weekend and thus i guess i shouldn’t complain. Last night I shared a couple of bottles of wine, cheese, and great company with my dear friend Damob. (You should go check out his blog) We chatted as i sunk glass after glass of fine Australian red wine, and one of the topics that came up as drank our way through our Saturday night was the Obama/Clinton debate.

Now, at the beginning of the campaign I was an avid Hillary supporter and nothing could sway me. However, as time has progressed my support for her has begun to wane and I’ve started to turn a curious eye towards Mr. Obama and what he represents. I’m just not feeling Hillary anymore to be honest, and I like what I’ve heard in some snippets of Obama speeches. It didn’t sit well with me when i found out Hillary was once on the board of Wal-mart, as once upon a time I slaved my days away there on a pittance wage. Then there is the business of the pharmaceutical companies funding her campaign, and i read somewhere that she is receiving the most money from them than any other candidate, democrat or republican. Then there is the recent problem with her completely fabricating events that took place overseas. To shrug off a lie as a “mistake” just isn’t good enough for me. Therefore, I’m going to be watching Mr. Obama much more closely now and perhaps when the time comes he just might get my vote.

On a different note, I watched the movie “Casino Royale” tonight on the Star Movie Channel. It was the first time I’d seen the movie, and unfortunately I have to say it was a disappointment. It just didn’t feel like a James Bond movie to me. I think it was the actor Daniel Craig in the role as the legendary 007 that just seemed to fall short of carrying off the suave martini drinking Bond character well enough. Few people in my life know this, but actually I am a huge James Bond fan. I used to stay up late as a kid and watch James Bond marathons on television. Just loved the movies growing up, and this latest version just didn’t feel up to standard. That’s only my opinion though, cause I’m sure the movie got good reviews. The clock here has just rolled past midnight, so I should probably make my way to bed. Wish everyone a great week ahead, and will post again soon! Have a good one and thanks for taking the time to stop by for a read.

Murder in Paradise…

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I read through some of my favorite blogs tonight, and surfed through the various message boards I enjoy to try and muster some idea to share with you guys.  I came across this news story on a message board I frequently read, so I want to start my entry today with a quote from an article that recently appeared in one of the big English language newspapers here in Thailand.  Brace yourself and read it slowly, then I’ll give you a bit of background following to catch you up to speed regarding this sad story.

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, “I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries.” He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, “They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That’s when the attackers strike.”

Yes…you read that correctly.  This was a quote from a very high ranking officer of the Thai National Tourist Police regarding the brutal murder of a young Swedish tourist in the southern resort island town of Phuket recently.  The young lady was attacked and murdered on a public beach in southern Thailand.  The media here has bowed to pressure from the government to downplay this attempted rape and murder to counter warnings that embassies have issued to their citizens considering or traveling in Thailand.  I’m just going to have to say that the officer’s response to the horrible crime is sadly quite typical of the level of service one can expect from the boys in brown here.  I think that to blame the victim is appalling and sadly this is not the first crime of this sort that i’ve seen float through the news relatively recently.  Worse still, the murderer was caught, or I think actually turned himself in and his reason for killing this young lady was simply because she resisted the attempted rape.  That was directly from the mouth of the murderer.

Shocking isn’t it?  I mean, I never really thought much of the police, even at home, as it is a job i think bullies grow up to hold.  However, If a crime is committed or you find yourself being the victim of one, then the police are the first people you call, right?  I can honestly say that growing up I didn’t always like them, but I did respect them.  Would you ever even dare to slip a cop a bribe tucked into a piece of paper, while being pulled over for a traffic violation?  Would you ever expect to see a cop saunter into a business looking for a little “protection” money?  Sadly, these sort of things are so common here that no one ever bats an eye.

I remember walking down the street a while back with a close friend, as I needed to visit a suit shop to be measured for a suit.  We decided to have a cigarette as we walked down the sidewalk and passed a little police box on our way.  In passing the police box, my blood immediately began to run cold.  I had heard stories of cops on this particular stretch of sidewalk eliciting tea money from foreigners, and my anxiety levels shot up immediately.  Sure enough a little ways down I turned to see the cop crouched down peering at us from the edge of a building, like a gremlin waiting for sparrow to happen by.  Luckily, we ducked in the shop and disposed of the ciggies before the cop was any wiser.  It is just a sad state of affairs, and one wonders why most Thais barricade themselves behind high walls with broken glass along the top to protect their homes.  Who can we trust here to take care of us when things get bad?  Just my 2 cents I guess.  What do you think?

Happy Easter Memories….

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Easter was a holiday that was second only to Christmas in the amount of excitement it would generate each spring growing up with my family in Alabama.  However, one particular Easter experience sticks out in my mind more than any other, and I thought i’d take another trip down memory lane with you.   My brother and I shared a room with bunk beds when we were little with me on the bottom, and him on the top.  I can remember blinking awake all bleary eyed one Easter morning and getting quite a shock.  You see, in our house the Easter bunny was a bit of a trickster and each year he would hide our Easter baskets in various places throughout the house.  Well, this particular year he had tied different color strings from our baskets to our beds and our job was to follow the strings to get our gifts.  However, the room was absolutely full of a string webbing from top to bottom.  We had to crawl over the strings to get out of the room and then we followed our different colored strings all through the house to the hidden baskets of treats.  We got baskets crammed full of chocolate bunnies, toys, and my most favorite of all….Cadbury Eggs.  My brother and I would fight over them every year if we didn’t have even numbers of Cadbury eggs, and the older we got the more Cadbury eggs it would take to make us happy.  Even years later as we aged and long had outgrown baskets, Mom still bought us Cadbury eggs each Easter.  I’m telling you even now as I write this, I wish I could get them imported here to Thailand.

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Then of course there was always the downside of Easter, which was the obligatory dress up in the new pastels and the family drag off to Easter service at Church.  I bet you don’t know any child that enjoys church, and I think everyone has their own individual stories of being pinched, prodded, or poked on Sunday mornings.  I remember Mom sitting between us on those horribly uncomfortable wooden pews to keep us from playing with each other but it never seemed to work.  So, more often than not she would resort to that perfectly aimed pinch on the back of the upper arm….and years later I still sit and shudder at the thought.  :-)  I can also remember watching the pastor, wondering why in the world he would go on and on talking for an hour when so many people in the audience seemed so uninterested in what he had to say.  People scattered throughout in their Sunday best in various states of  falling asleep or mindlessly pretending to read the church bulletin for the 20th time that day.  Ahhh, the good memories of growing up.

Also before i close this entry, I wanted to quickly write on a completely different topic for you.  I’m very very proud to announce that I FINALLY completed my visa and work permit process after months of effort and stress last week.  I received a year visa and can now be officially taxed at a rate 3 times that of the locals….hooray!  Anyways, I’m thankful my long wrestle with the endless amount of red tape is finished and thought a few of you at home might be interested to know.  So, Happy Easter and much love from Thailand.  Hope the Easter bunny is good to you!

Crazed Elizabeth Taylor…

I can’t remember where i saw this, but have been meaning to post it up for a while.  I don’t know if it’s the old age or the booze talking, but poor Liz has certainly lost it.  Oh well, just promise me that if I ever get that nutty then someone will be there to roll me down the red carpet decked to the nines liquored up as well!  Oh, and isn’t the little dog at the end cute…even he feels sorry for Liz!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

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A big warm Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all from the city of Angels here in Thailand. I was sitting here trying to think of something creative and thoughtful to write about the holiday, but i must confess that I’m just not feeling that inspired by the luck of the Irish this evening. St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that I don’t really remember having big celebrations for growing up in rural Alabama, despite the heavy Irish background in my family’s history. Though I’m certainly not going to put my last name out here for the world to see, I can assure you that my last name is VERY Irish as some of you will know already. However, we did celebrate it today with the kiddies at school and I had on my green to avoid being pinched by the other foreign teachers.

Actually, the thing I thought of that I wanted to talk about today is age and health. I heard two different people on two different programs talking about age and health related issues twice today, so it naturally got me thinking about my own age and health. Firstly, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasters on my ipod on the way home from work, and one of the things he talked about was how life changes when your birthdays move beyond 30. When I was in my twenties I spend all my free time going out, and It made me stir crazy if I had to sit at home an entire evening with nothing to do. I wouldn’t have been caught dead at home on a Saturday night cause I couldn’t stand thought of missing something, no matter what that may have been. However, when the days, months and years of my life started to slip beyond 30 things changed. These days I much prefer to be at home than any where else in the world, and I actually look forward to spending the entire weekend at home being lazy and catching up on not much to do. Age has caused me to lose the desire to be out running the streets, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, another problem age has caused affects my health and I’ve really started to be concerned about it lately. I don’t eat any different, and I do the same routine at the gym, yet I seem to have gained weight. I heard on television tonight that our bodies really start to age after 30, and that it is important to work harder to keep in shape. It seems unfair though doesn’t it? I had all that extra energy to burn in my twenties, but nowadays I’d rather have an afternoon nap than spend a couple of hours sweating to the oldies at the gym. My partner keeps trying to get me involved in doing aerobics, but I’ve been resisting thus far. Maybe I’m just a bore, but the thought of being the only white face dancing about with a group of Thai girls in front of a plate glass window just doesn’t appeal to me. However, I must admit to you my faithful readers that I’m about treadmill and stair mastered to death. So who knows, right? The next time you pass the gym keep your eye open for the foreigner out of step, stumbling over the step bench. So in closing, as always make sure you have a great week ahead where ever you are in the world and how ever this finds you!

The Little Things…

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It’s amazing to me, sometimes, the things you miss the most when you live abroad so far away from home. It always ends up being the little things that you take for granted in your day-to-day life. The little conveniences that make life easier and more comfortable are much more noticeable when you have to do without them for months and years. Things like the latest sitcom series on TV, or a pack of underwear from Target that actually fits are just simply not there anymore. I miss good indigestion causing Mexican food, amazing college football games on holidays, and the knowledge that your loved ones are just a quick call or drive away. It is these sorts of things that really stick out in your mind when you have the time to sit and reflect gazing up at the stars under the palms.

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One funny thing though, I really miss the most is food. Food plays such an important part of our lives, and I bet most people never think twice when they are having that pop-tart in the morning or that slice of savory pizza with a cold beer. I sit here after a big Saturday night out with my friend, and what do you suppose I would have as a snack before I carry myself off to bed? After all, I do live in the far east and how popular is Thai food back home? So you might think i’d be looking at a steaming bowl of spicy noodles, or some other hot dish Thailand is famous for. No….In reality I sit here and eat a yummy Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich with an ice cold glass of milk to comfort me off to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, though! I do enjoy Thai food and I did have a bit of larb gai, somtum, and sticky rice for dinner. However, it is nice to slip into a bit of nostalgia once and a while by enjoying certain comfort foods from home. So the next time you enjoy your pop tart, or your ice cold beer I hope you might give a thought to those that do without.  It is a bit late here, so I’m not going to keep this post a long one.  I just want to wish everyone much love from Bangkok and hope you are having a relaxing weekend where ever this finds you!

Career Oportunities For Bullies…

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Why are there bullies in the world?  I have read that bullies act the way they do to get attention, or they are trying to make themselves feel more important by intimidating or belittling others.  They seem to always be able to home in on people they perceive as easy targets or easily intimiated.  I was plagued by bullies all throughout my teen years, and I can remember living through most of my high school years in daily fear.  I often felt so very afraid to go to school, or I would avoid them by walking the long way around the school to get to classes and thus avoiding places where I knew certain bullies might lurk.  I remember one year eating my lunch alone with the teacher in the classroom to avoid contact with them.  Sure, I was different and unfortunately for me there were people perceptive enough to realize my differences even before I did.  I lacked so much self-confidence as all teens do, but that was compounded by the fact that I began to “notice” boys instead of girls.  Other people seemed to sense I was gay, though I didn’t realize It myself till later in my teens.  That coupled with an interest in computer games and Sci Fi made me an easy mark, a geek, or a nerd.  The bullying I experienced was rarely physical, but the psychological torment I endured through my high school years affected me well beyond my eventual graduation day.

However, life goes on and we all grow up.  As an adult do you ever wonder what becomes of those that seemed to delight in the torment of their peers?  I have learned over the years that they are still among us.  Some have fortunately grown up physically and mentally, and most often completely forget the hurt they once caused.  I can remember running into bullies at home and they would speak to me on the street in passing like we were old friends.  Then there are those that never grow out of it.  They move on in life to take careers in law enforcement, managerial positions, and school principles.  Some make life time careers out of making others feel bad or exercising their power over others.  These are the bosses that use intimidation to get what they want, and scoff at others ideas and questions.  Wikipedia defines Bullying as the act of intentionally causing harm to others, through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation.  Sound like any bosses you know?

Fortunately, I did manage to grow up just the same as the bullies and I’m no longer afraid of their type.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not as strong of a person as I would like to be but I have learned to be proud of who I am, and my accomplishments in life.  I’ve come a long way from the fearful little boy I used to be, and fear no longer paralyzes me when this sort of behavior shows its ugly head.  I have learned to be strong for others, and sometimes you just have to stick up for those you care about in life.  A situation occurred recently and though it was hard, I stood up for myself and my friends.  So if you are out there, and you have been victimized in some way then please know you are not alone.  I promise life will get better!

P.S.  A good friend has started a blog of his own so make sure you go over and check him out!  I’ve also added him to my blogroll so you can check him out anytime, as I hope he will be updating frequently.  Have a great rest of the week where ever this finds you, and remember to never be afraid to stand up to them!

Surprise Holidays and Copy Cats…

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Happy Thursday folks!  I’m going to go ahead and warn you now that this is going to be one of those random though/self analysis sort of posts so who knows where this will go.  Firstly, I ended up with a surprise week off since we had a minor drama unfold at work first thing Monday morning.  We were having our annoyingly boring little administrative morning meeting and we got a phone call that 2 of our students had come down with hand, foot, and mouth.  Now, don’t jump to conclusions…this is nothing like mad cow disease or anything and apparently it is common amongst schools with large numbers of young children.  You get these flu like symptoms and spots like you have measles on your hands and feet.  Also, you get ulcer like blisters in your mouth, and the last time it swept through the school i got it as well.  It is HIGHLY contagious sooooo, after learning we had more than 5 cases we quickly moved to close the school for a week.  It can be dangerous for young kids, so better to shut down and let it pass.  Therefore, Tom got a surprise week off work!

Sooooo, I had meant to sit down this week and pound out a final copy of my research proposal for Grad schoo.  However, I’ve been to busy being as lazy as possible to accomplish anything productive.  I did at least manage the gym every day, so at least the week hasn’t been a complete loss thus far.  Which reminds me of something I wanted to talk about with you today.  I noticed a commercial on the train coming home for a new Thai movie coming to theaters soon.   I made a mental note to mention it today in my blog because it is something that slightly irks me.  It is a Thai movie about eccentric, comical pirates and I noticed some various low budget scenes from the movie trailer with giant squid and crabs.  The set, scenery, and costumes were blatantly copied from another blockbuster pirate trilogy which recently sailed through the box office earning millions.

Thais have to be the world’s best copy cats.  Let me give you another example that comes to mind.  I remember going to a Thai theater production a while back that was supposed to be an “amazing” and creative in dealing with gay life and culture.  There were big billboards around town for it, and some very famous Thai celebrities were even cast in leading roles for it.  So, I went with my ex to see it and all they had done was make a Thai theater version of the movie Love! Valour! and Compassion! which was written and released in the States in 1997.  There were some very slight changes, but they kept the same plot, characters, and I even recognized familiar scenes from the script.

I guess I blame the education system here for this phenomenon as Thai students are not taught to think creatively.  Children are not encouraged to think outside the box in traditional schooling, and most learning here occurs much the same way a mother bird feeds a baby bird.  It is considered rude here to question anyone older or an authority figure so Thai students will sit in class looking at you like they are following along able to understand, but not.  They are quite, and respectful, but rarely ask questions to extend their grasp of the subject being learned at hand.  You can see it here in all aspects of society.  Healthy debate is discouraged and ridiculed, and thus creativity is often stamped out at an early age.  Now, I say all this in general of course as there are of course exceptions.  I know some very creative Thai people, and thus there are those that do well in spite of the system, as opposed to growing because of the system.  Well, I think that is more than enough rambling for today, so i’m going to head off and try to get some school work done.  Love to everyone and will write again over the weekend!

Red Tape Part 2….

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Well, I finally made it to Saturday evening here in one piece after a mentally exhausting week down at the office. I know that i have hinted a few times in my previous entries that things are not all rosey at work, and I’ve tried to keep work complaints out of my blog despite the stress it causes me from time to time. Today that ends!!!! How does that old saying go about life imitating art? I can’t exactly remember, and not that I’d call my ramblings on here art anways. Something happened yesterday day that relates so closely to my previous post on red tape and visa work that I felt it a relevant topic to share with you my family, friends, and the occasional curious stranger.

I was checking emails early yesterday morning while sipping my coffee from my superman mug, and the office clerk was busily shuffling and re-shuffling her papers sprawled across her desk. I casually turned and inquired as to the current status of my work permit, as it is still being held hostage somewhere behind mountains of red tape. I was given a brusk “In process” and as my current visa runs out in 2 weeks I pushed a little further for more information. She mumbled in Thai the usual complaints about being so busy, and why do foreigners always want to know everything, but I wasn’t backing down this time. So i asked what the problem was, and she starts to explain to me bits and pieces of the drama that would unfold. I am informed over my coffee, that my nearly completed Masters Degree in “Education” is not adequate anymore to obtain a teacher’s license, which is needed to obtain a work permit…which is needed to extend my visa. She went on to explain that the shifting sands of Thai law have changed again and that the “powers that be” have decided that if one doesn’t possess a bachelor’s degree in Education, then a Masters in Education isn’t adequate enough to qualify one as a teacher. (Insane and totally illogical I know) So basically….she tells me that my 2 and a half years and nearly 9,000 dollars spent where all for not…money and time wasted down the toilet. Further, in the same breathe she starts talking over my head to the office manager in Thai “about” me and what I might have to do if the process can’t be finished in 2 weeks. She says to the office manager that i might have to pay an additional 50 dollars to extend 10 more days and then if that isn’t enough time then I might have to exit the country for a 3rd time to apply for a new working Visa abroad. Now imagine that all the while i’m sitting there…literally sitting between this conversation about me going on over my head, and so try to imagine my face slowly going red and with steam starting to seep from my ears.

My patience snapped and I shouted that I would NOT be paying anymore money because of her inability to get my paperwork sorted out in time. Nor would I be coming out of pocket for yet another visa run, because of the inept ability of some rude office clerk or because of the inefficiency of the various Thai ministry’s bureaucrats in processing little bits of paper at the rate of a sickly army of snails. I was furious!!!! So, by this time the bell had rung and it was past time for me to head off to the kiddies, and as luck would have it we were due to practice a “Pep” rally for our students. So I needed to suddenly put on a happy face and get ready to cheer our team’s chants! Ahhh, the frustrations of life here sometimes.

So, I waited till later in the day when the owner of the school arrived and she cleared up the whole mess a bit better. Apparently, despite what the moronic clerk had told me, I have been issue a temporary teacher’s license based on my qualifications….which ARE still considered an adequate teaching credential. However, at some point I will have to take some 4 day Thai cultural course and exam for some reason and my boss assured me over and over that there was nothing to worry about. She said that we had 2 years and that the government was bound to shift between now and then, thereby changing all the rules yet again. Therefore, the inept office clerk just had not one clue what she was talking about and ran her mouth off trying to save face (Which is another extremely annoying aspect of Thai culture i’m not going to go into today). Therefore, keep your fingers, toes, and whatever appendage you’d like crossed that the dust will settle soon. I hope everyone finds some way to make their weekend special and talk to you next time! Hopefully with a more cheerful topic. ;-)