Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Morning

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I took some photos of the kids on Christmas morning. The challenge is that they generally are looking down at what they are opening, so I had them pose before they started. It turned out almost exactly how I liked, except for one set of eyes.

Wonderful Christmas

It was great to be home for Christmas this year. The last time that we were in the U.S. for Christmas, Aleena was only 2 years old, and Jacob was the same age that Aleena is now.

Santa was pretty generous to us this year. The kids didn't get to open a lot of presents here, as some of them are still back in Thailand. Nalin did write the old fat man a note telling him that we'd be here for Christmas, so he did deliver at least one of their presents here.

Over the last six months or so, every time that we are in a restaurant or out, the kids want to borrow Tim's iPhone to play games. Santa must have been watching, because they each got their own iTouch's. To say that they are a hit would be an understatement. Nalin had already filled up half of her 8gb (actually closer to 6.5) of space with photos and videos that she made. They love the little free apps available.

Tim and I both received Kindles for Christmas. I had almost ordered one in Thailand about a month ago before we knew that we were coming, but the wait was 7-9 weeks. In addition, Tim received a Canon HG20 video recorder, while I received an iPhone 4. We purchased the iPhone in Thailand, and Tim had told me that it hadn't arrived yet so that I wouldn't receive it until we got back, so I was surprised a bit. It only came in two days before we left, so I almost did wait. Of course, I got my Canon 5D Mark II about a month before Christmas. I don't know if that counts as a Christmas present or not, but overall it was a pretty good holiday season.

But of course, Christmas isn't all about phat loot and electronics. We spent Christmas Eve at mom's and dad's and saw family. Tim hadn't seen some of the family in almost four years.

On Christmas morning, we opened presents at the house from Santa and the immediate family. It was nice celebrating it with Eric, Heather and Ethan. Since the kids got the iTouches, they didn't get a lot of other presents, so they would open one, then wait for Ethan to open three or four. Fortunately, they did a pretty good job of waiting, and Ethan is a much faster gift-opener than he was in the past.

In the afternoon, we went to my Uncle Steve's and Aunt Carolyn's house. Just as dinner was starting, Nalin's allergies started acting up so we had to leave.

This afternoon we are going back to mom's and dad's to exchange gifts with the grandparents, and Laura's and Eric's families. In the past, we would do that after the Christmas Eve party at mom's and dad's, but the kids would be exhausted by the time we started opening presents, so we moved it.

My guess is that shopping will be on the agenda starting tomorrow. The kids have some Christmas money to spend, and there are things that they can get here that are harder to get in Thailand. Tim and I are also not adverse to doing some shopping.

I think Jacob summed it up best when I asked him how he liked Christmas this year. "Dad, this is the best Christmas that I've had in a long time."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas at Home

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
The kids are enjoying their first Christmas here in the states since 2006. They are all very excited about seeing the snow; in fact they made their first snowballs in the parking lot at the airport upon our arrival. Fortunately for us, there is plenty of the white stuff on the ground for the kids to play with, but its already cleared off the roads.

Today (Christmas Eve), we go to my parents house to celebrate with my dad's family. Tomorrow we will celebrate together with our family and my brother Eric's in the morning, and then go to my Uncle Steve's in the afternoon. On Sunday, we will be back to mom and dad's to exchange presents with the grandparents and cousins.

We are still adjusting our sleep schedule, although at different paces. Jacob and I are pretty close to a normal sleep schedule, while Tim and the girls are slower to adjust. In fairness to Tim, part of the reason that she is adjusting more slowly is because of Aleena.

Definitely glad that we decided to come here.

Christmas at Home

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
The kids are enjoying their first Christmas here in the states since 2006. They are all very excited about seeing the snow; in fact they made their first snowballs in the parking lot at the airport upon our arrival. Fortunately for us, there is plenty of the white stuff on the ground for the kids to play with, but its already cleared off the roads.

Today (Christmas Eve), we go to my parents house to celebrate with my dad's family. Tomorrow we will celebrate together with our family and my brother Eric's in the morning, and then go to my Uncle Steve's in the afternoon. On Sunday, we will be back to mom and dad's to exchange presents with the grandparents and cousins.

We are still adjusting our sleep schedule, although at different paces. Jacob and I are pretty close to a normal sleep schedule, while Tim and the girls are slower to adjust. In fairness to Tim, part of the reason that she is adjusting more slowly is because of Aleena.

Definitely glad that we decided to come here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Funny Travel Moments

The following conversation took place in Seattle while waiting for our flight to Detroit:

Aleena:  I can't wait until we get to America!
Me:  We are in Seattle, so we are already in America.
Aleena:  Oh, I forgot, I mean Cincinnati.

A similar conversation took place in the Detroit airport while awaiting our Cincinnati flight:

Aleena:  I can't wait until we get to America!
Me:  We are in Detroit, so we are already in America.
Aleena:  Oh, I forgot, I mean Cincinnati.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Learning Celebration

Today, Nalin's fourth grade class had their learning celebration.  They showed us what they have been doing in reading, writing and science (you thought I was going to say arithmetic, didn't you).

We didn't know if Tim would be able to make it, as she was trying to get her passport done before our trip next week.  Nalin made it pretty clear that she'd be disappointed if her mom didn't make it.  Since we decided to wait to tell the kids about going to the U.S. for Christmas until we were certain we could get all the paperwork done, we couldn't tell her why mommy might miss it.  Fortunately, Tim made it home in time to go.

We enjoyed it, although Tim and I left before the shared snacks in order to go to the Thai immigration office.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hanging On

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Yesterday after Aleena's soccer game, she and McKayla were playing around. They took turns carrying each other around on their backs. They were gracious enough to let me take this photo (and a few others).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hua Hinn

We had a great weekend in Hua Hinn.  The water was a little bit chilly, but overall the weather was great.  There was a nice breeze that just made it so nice.

The Hyatt there is just a really nice place to stay.  The kids like the pool, which has a giant slide and a "lazy river"  that winds around.  Whenever we stay there, Tim tries to get a room on the first floor next to the pool so that we can just walk out.  The Hyatt will not guarantee those rooms, so if you get there when one is available, then you are in luck.  We were fortunate this time to get one.

The service staff at the Hyatt is also just top notch.  They go out of there way to help you without being obtrusive.  The one thing that stands out is when we were having dinner at the Father's Day buffet.  They had mushroom pizza on the buffet, and while the kids love pizza, they don't love mushrooms.  Jacob mentioned to his mom that he wished that there was cheese pizza.  Five or ten minutes later a waiter arrived  and placed a cheese pizza on our table.  A staff member had overheard his talking to Tim so they gave him his wish.  They made a ten year old boy and his sisters very happy.

Most of the time we hung around the pool and the beach.  We ventured into town for lunch one day, but for the most part we just relaxed at the hotel.  You can ride a pony on the beach for thirty minutes at a cost of about $13.  Tim managed to bargain them down to about $10 a ride, so we rented three ponies for the kids.  Aleena had a young pony which she had to switch off of by then end of the ride because it was too tired.  I guess eating at the buffet really beefed her up a bit.

Overall it was a really nice trip and we had fun.  By the end, however, the kids were bickering with each other quite a bit.  I think three days together without friends crossed some sort of threshold.

I did get a chance to use my new camera.  There were a few issues with the flash that I couldn't figure out, but so far I'm happy with the results.






Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another High Profile Extradition

While the high profile of extradition of alleged arms dealer Victor Bout came to a conclusion last month, Thailand and the U.S. may soon be involved with another extradition case. This one has a lot more significance here in Thailand.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is scheduled to speak in Washington DC at the U.S. government human rights panel. Mr. Thaksin is a convicted felon in Thailand, and Thailand and the U.S. have an extradition treaty. Thai officials have indicated that they are looking into having the U.S. attempt to extradite the former PM should he travel to the U.S.

Many people find it ironic that Thaksin would speak on human rights, as his critics have accused him of fault in the extra-judicial death of more than two thousand drug suspects. Regardless of his qualifications, it seems quite foolish for him to risk extradition. He has been pretty careful to stay out of the reach of Thai authorities.

Unless he has some type of assurances that he will not be detained, the risk is very real. The Thai government cooperated with the U.S. on the extradition of Bout. While politics may not influence a U.S. court to extradite Thaksin, it certainly could influence the U.S. government to detain him and attempt it.

Of course, Thaksin isn't the only one whose actions I question. Why is the Thai government announcing its intentions? Maybe it was inevitable, but if my intention is to actually get Thaksin, I would have been as coy and quiet about that as I could. Work behind the scenes to avoid scaring him off.

To rebut Thaksin's expected allegations that the treatment of the red shirts involved human rights abuse, Thailand is sending the foreign minister Kasit. Kasit was a yellow shirt supporter who I will not call a complete and utter moron only because of my mom's admonition against not saying anything if I don't have anything nice to say.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekend Trip

The kids are off of school on Monday to celebrate the King's birthday, so Tim and I are taking them to Hua Hinn for a long weekend getaway. The plan is to spend a lot of time at the pool and the beach relaxing.

More Dancing

Today was the parent viewing day for Aleena's dance class. Both before and during the class, it is clear that these girls have a lot of fun. Aleena did a really nice job dancing, but sometimes she goofs off a little bit. Her instructor told me that she likes to be silly.





Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gymnastic Uniforms

Yesterday I took a few photos of Jacob and Aleena in their gymnastic's uniform. More precisely, I took some photos of Jacob, and I took some photos of Aleena and her best friend McKayla.




Jacob in Uniform

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
This is a photo of Jacob from his Cub Scout pack meeting yesterday. I'm not quite sure why he always forgets to wear his kerchief.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1st

Last night I was up late at Tim's work helping out with something. By the time that I went to bed, it was almost 1:00 a.m. My plan at that time was to skip running in the morning.

I've been jogging for the last month or so, but only this week have I started going out at 5:00 a.m. Previously, I was running (usually twice) between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Now while that might seem like a lovely time in parts of the U.S. this time of the season, here in Bangkok, the heat and humidity can be oppressive. Taking a clue from my wife, I decided to give the morning a try, and I really enjoyed it. Its nice and cool, and I feel like I am running faster and fresher.

Somehow I ended up waking up before 5:00 a.m. and hitting the road. Although I was pretty tired to start with, it was a pretty nice run. Of course, the rest of the day I have been dragging from the lack of sleep.

This afternoon I went over to the camera shop in the basement floor of Central Chaengwattana and bought myself a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a 580EXII Speedlite flash. I wanted to buy a battery pack for the camera, but they are currently "mot" (out of stock).

The 5D is a really nice upgrade from my 40D. Don't get me wrong, the 40D is a respectable piece of equipment, but the 5D is much nicer. In addition to greater resolution, it is full frame (bigger sensor), shoots better in lower light and overall delivers a better photo (or at least offers the possibility). Additionally, it can record video in HD.

I had a little bit of an opportunity to try it out tonight at the cub scout meeting. The lighting in there is never great, so the photos came out less than spectacular. I did manage to get a photo of Jacob's WEBELOS II den. It actually looks pretty nice, but I had the ISO set too high, so there is a bit of noise in the shot.

If you read this blog, look at my Facebook page, or visit my photos at Flickr, you'll no doubt see a lot of photos shot by this new camera.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Celebration of Learning

Last week the fifth grade at ISB invited the parents for the Celebration of Learning event. The event started off with each class performing on musical instruments and singing. Jacob was very happy because not only did his mother and I attend, but we also brought Aleena with us.

We then went to the classrooms where the students showed off their work. Jacob showed me a number of things, including his coin sorting experiment. After the classroom experience, we went to PE and then the Thai language classes.




Dancing With the Girls

This week is parent viewing week for the After School Dance program at ISB.  There is no performance in the fall semester, so they invite the parents to watch a dance session so that they can see the progress that the dancers have made.

We are already at that state with Nalin where we embarrass her, sometimes by our mere presence.  She said that she wanted me to go, so I went.  Nalin and her fellow dancers did a nice job.  They all seemed to enjoy showing off in front of their parents.

Shockingly enough, I took my camera with me.  Most of the photos didn't turn out very well.  I was relying on my flash to "freeze" the subjects, but didn't take into account that I was really only using it as fill flash.  If that doesn't make sense to you, don't worry.  Suffice to to say that I screw this stuff up way too much.





Recently abortion has become a hot topic in Thailand.  A few weeks ago, two thousand fetuses were found in a temple in Bangkok; brought there from an abortion clinic. 

Abortion is illegal in Thailand except under a few narrow circumstances, such as rape and to preserve the health of the mother.  I didn't really know the legality of abortion until recently, but its not surprising that the practice is almost always illegal here with a ninety-eight percent Buddhist population that includes a lot of people who don't even like to kill insects.  

Government Survives

The Thai Constitutional Court today dismissed the case today to dissolve the ruling Democrat party by a four to two vote.  The case involved the alleged misuse of campaign donations in 2005, and would have resulted in not only the dissolution of the party, but also a five year ban on party executives, including Prime Minister Abhisit.  The court ruled that the petition that started the process was unlawful, as it took more than fifteen days to file.  

The case has been mired in controversy.  The petition brought by the election commission occurred in the face of protesting red shirts outside their building.  There have also been tapes alleging to show individuals trying to influence the court to decide in the Democrats favor.  In fact, three judges recused themselves from the case, two because they were suing over the release of the allegedly damning video clips.  The red shirts will certainly call foul over this, seeing it as another example of the elite triumphing over the peasants.  

This whole controversy makes me really appreciate our court system in the U.S.  Believe me when I say that there are many U.S. Supreme Court rulings with which I disagree.  But while I might question the logic, wisdom and good jurisprudence of some of these decisions, I don't question the integrity of the Justices.  So while I rarely agreed with a decision by Justice Stevens, I wouldn't question his honesty or his commitment to the law.  If someone released a video clip that seemed to show someone trying to influence one of the U.S. Justices, it would genuinely shock me.  Here, its not even a mild surprise.  

Friday, November 26, 2010


David and Kip Peters invited the families of our cub scout den to share Thanksgiving dinner with them this year.  With the exception of the fabulous Thanksgiving in July at mom's and dad's house, this was our first real Thanksgiving dinner since 2006.  In the past we'd have some chicken or duck, but never a turkey, and certainly never a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  

Six of the seven families were able to make it, each bringing a dish or two.  David and Kip did a fabulous job on the turkey, as the white meat was very moist and delicious.  Everything was really good.  We made pumpkin pies and a cornbread dish using my mom's recipes.  Yaow has made the cornbread many times before, and it is a favorite of the kids.  It was very popular at the party, and I had a few people ask me for the recipe.

The pumpkin pie didn't turn out as well.  I'm not sure if it was the type of canned pumpkin that we used or the fact that it took over twice as long to cook as expected, but it just wasn't quite the same.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't quite the same.  I did have the foresight to bring a tub of Cool Whip, which was good on all the deserts.  It was in the refrigerator for a few days before the party, and I think I had to tell Aleena that she could not have it at least ten times.

They have a great house for entertaining, so the kids played pool and watched a movie, which allowed us to enjoy dinner.  Its also nice that not only did Jacob have friends there, but so did Nalin and Aleena.  Everyone had a great time.

When You Die

Aleena was looking at Tim's jewelry the other day, and one ring caught her fancy.  Tim had told her that her mom had given it to her when she died.  Aleena responded "mommy, when you die, can I have it?"

I told Tim to watch out if Aleena starts to offer her a lot of high cholesterol and high fat foods.  

Biking Trip

This past weekend we went on an overnight bike ride with the cub scouts.  On Saturday morning we drove to the province of  Samut Songkram and visited the floating market.  

The scouts had hired a bus, but Tim and I decided that we'd rather drive ourselves.  When we arrived at school to load our bikes in the truck, Nalin and Aleena wanted to ride the bus with their friends.  I'm not saying that this made the two hour drive quieter or more peaceful.  I'm just not saying.  

After visiting the floating market, we split into three groups.  One group was to ride thirty-two kilometers, another group ten kilometers, and I think the last group of non-riders just hung out and talked or played.  Tim, Jacob and I went on the thirty-two kilometer ride, while Nalin and Aleena played.  

The ride was okay.  The scouts had hired the same biking group, Spice Roads, as we had last year, but this was a different location and course.  I have to say the ride last year seemed a bit more challenging and fun.  There were also a lot fewer riders this year, as apparently the U.S. Embassy had some event going on the same weekend.

After the ride we had a two hour drive to the Kang Krachan Country Club in Petchburi .  The hotel was okay; the small bungalos were clean.  What I didn't like was that to get to the hotel restaurant, we had to ride in large golf carts for ten plus minutes.  The ride itself wasn't terrible, but when I had to wait for fifteen minutes after dinner to get a ride back to my room, I was less than thrilled.

The food tasted good, although the selection was not nearly as kid friendly as the resort that we stayed in last year.  Last year's place had things like chicken nuggets and french fries, as well as a pretty big selection of other foods. It wasn't just the kids who were disappointed, we heard several parents grousing about the food selection.  Every meal, however, there were at least a few things that I thought were pretty good and hardly "exotic" by western standards.  

The plan for Sunday was a rafting trip organized by the hotel.  The hotel staff in charge happened to be three ladyboys.  Its funny that the kids seemed to have no idea that these were anything other than normal ladies.  Even the fact that one of the three had a voice deeper than most any of the dads on the trip did not clue the kids in.  

The problem wasn't that they were ladyboys, however, the problem was that they sucked at organizing fun games.  Before the canoe trip started, they had the kids and parents line up in a circle and play some games.  I opted out.  By the end of that activity, they were naming fruit and the kids would make a certain move depending on the fruit called out.  Of course, when she said "banana", she had the kids do a pelvic thrust.  

There was a scavenger hunt during the canoe trip which involved stopping at four or five places and retrieving bags of food that had been placed their earlier.  It added so much to the canoe trip to have the kids all argue about who would get to go get each gab.

When we arrived at the end of the canoe trip, we had to make a pyramid out of newspaper and tape.  Then the kids made a salad out of the bags of food they had collected for the ladyboys to taste.  Somewhere along the way we had picked up a bar of soap, but I couldn't find it when it came time to making the salad, or else it would have been included.  As it was, our team made a salad that was about fifty percent raw onions.  As one of the parents noted, there was an irony in "tossing" the salad for the ladyboys.  

The kids favorite part of the canoe trip was probably the last thirty minutes when they got to play in the creek.  They would float about eighty feet, where one of a couple of adults would stop them. Then the kids would make their way back upstream and do it again.  If the organizers had taken the kids there first and skipped everything else, it would have been a much bigger win.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we got home.  We ended up eating at the mall.  Everyone was pretty tired, so we ended up skipping Loy Katong.  

Brief Break

I took a brief brake from blogging this past week.  It started last Thursday when the kids had International Day at school.  I was taking some photos and was very tired and got in a pretty bad mood.

The entire elementary school had an assembly on International Day.  The Chevron Theater was packed with standing room only as there were a lot of parents there as well.  Aleena performed a Thai dance with a group of about sixteen or so boys and girls.  One of the Thai mom's, Kuhn Thik organized the dance.  The children practiced every Friday after Aleena's jazz dance class.  Of course, at ages five through seven, they were really cute dancing in their traditional Thai outfits.  After watching a few of there practices, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but they actually did a great job.

During assembly they also played a video of students explaining what "free to be" (the theme of the week) meant to them.  Jacob's class selected him to represent them, so he had his moment on the screen in front of everyone. He had his hands behind his head and did a nice job delivering his spiel.  The part I remember was the end when he said it meant that "no one can boss you around".

I think the kids favorite part of the assembly was where they announce each of the countries who are represented at the ES.  The ISB ES student body comes from fifty-nine different countries.  The largest contingent was probably the U.S. followed closely by Thailand.

Its pretty neat that the kids go to school with other kids from every continent save Antarctica.   I'm not sure how many of the kids that I went to elementary school with were born outside of Campbell County Kentucky.  I'm not sure how much of it all they will remember, particularly Aleena, but I hope the experience helps to shape them.  Not only do I think it can help them appreciate other cultures, but also their own cultures.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pelosi Should Step Aside

As someone who generally leans towards the Republican side of the fence, I'm not that displeased that Speaker Pelosi is seeking to remain the leader of the Democrats in the House.  Whether you think she was effective or abominable, she is a polarizing figure that the Republicans used to great effect.  I think that Democrats like Representative Heath Shuler are correct in that it will make it more difficult for Democrats to recruit "blue dog" Democrats.

Truth be told, I don't think that it was all the Speaker's fault that the Democrats lost sixty plus seats.  Nor do I think that voters were entirely enchanted with the Republicans.  While some voters may have been motivated to switch because of specific issues like health care reform, I'm guessing that the economy was the issue that carried the day.  Since things were still tough, I guess the change in 2008 carried over to 2010.  Unfortunately for the Democrats, they were the ones changed.

The problem I see with having Speaker Pelosi as minority leader revolves around what she brings to the table.  The people who are pleased with her as the face of the Democrats in Congress are probably going to vote for the Democrats no matter who leads them.  A more moderate face might accomplish a few things.  First, it might attract more conservative Democrats to the party, which would be a great help in the very seats they lost during this cycle.  Secondly, it would be a bit of a mea culpa.  "Voters, we heard you loud and clear.  We got the message and we are going to make changes."

The ironic thing is that the Democrat caucus will now be more liberal than it was previously, helping the Speaker to retain leadership.  A lot of the seats they lost were moderate and conservative members.  House Members in more safe liberal districts survived and remain to support Speaker Pelosi.

The matter could be decided in the next week or so, or it could be pushed back until December.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stepping Down

It looks like deputy ministers who were refusing to step down before running for the office that were stripped of may have seen the "wisdom" of the Prime Minister's request.  Apparently there were more than two involved.  At least two have already stepped down, and one is expected to step down in the next few days.

I think that the Prime Minister is having a pretty good week.  He agrees to go forward with the Bout extradition and now he enforces at least the appearance of propriety in the upcoming by-elections.

Bout to U.S.

Today Thailand extradited alleged arms dealer Victor Bout to the United States.  Mr. Bout is now on his way to the United States to face terrorism charges.  The Prime Minister reviewed the case and decided to go forward with the extradition.

Thank you Mr. Abhisit.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not Easy Being PM

Prime Minister Abhisit certainly doesn't have an easy job here.  We all know about the challenges he faces from the opposition red shirt party, but sometimes his coalition government partners also cause him a certain amount of grief.

The courts recently disqualified a handful of parliament members for failing to disclose their ownership in a company that had contracts with the state.  This is in violation of version 2007 of the Thai Constitution.  On December 12th there will be elections to fill those vacancies.  

Two of the members who were disqualified are also deputy ministers in the coalition government.  One is from the the Chart Thai Pattana party and the other from the Bhumjaithai party.  Both of these are key members of the coalition that put the Democrats in power.  Both deputy ministers have announced that they will run in the by-elections.  They may not have an easy path to reelection, however, because at least one of them was elected as a member of former PM Thaksin's party.  He may find the previous support that he enjoyed has eroded considerably.  

Prime Minister Abhisit has made it known that he wishes the two deputies to step down from their positions while they contest the election.  He cited the example of the Deputy Prime Minister, and his right hand man, Suthep Thaugsuban, who stepped down from his position to run for an open parliament seat.  The reason was to remove even the appearance that he was using his influence as Deputy Prime minister to win the election.  

The coalition partners certainly don't share the Prime Minister's stated desire to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  They stated, perhaps correctly, that there is no legal imperative to step down, and that they don't want to do so.  They seem to believe this to be an internal party matter, and that the entire problem was that the Prime Minister opened his big mouth. 

The Prime Minister could reshuffle his cabinet to remove them.  This, however could fracture the coaliton and lead to new elections.  My guess is that new elections may not hurt the Chart Thai party a lot.  Unless the Peau Thai party (red shirts) win enough seats to form the government by itself, there is a good chance that Chart Thai could be part of a future coalition government.  

The Bhumjaithai party may have more to fear from elections.  They are an important coaliton partner under their unofficial leader Newin Chidchob (who is serving a five year ban from politics).   The problem, however, is that their members of parliament were all elected as members of the People Power Party (Thaksin's group) and defected.  Many of them will face election in the red strong hold of northern and north-eastern Thailand.  In a few by-elections between Peau Thai (successor to the People Power Party) and Bhumjaithai, Peau Thai has crushed its opposition.  Its not only politics between the red shirts and Bhumjaithai, its personal.  Mr. Newin was former PM Thaksin's right hand man, and he broke ranks to side with Thaksin's "enemies".  The Peau Thai party will go all out to defeat the Bhumjaithai party, and if Bhumjaithai does not win seats, its power evaporates.  No more plum ministry positions.  

I hope that the PM wins out and forces the two men from office.  Its bad enough that they violated the law, force new elections, and then just run for the same seat.  I hope the PM is sincere about his desire to have a more ethical government, but I'm not sure that his coalition partners are all on board.  

Rangel Me Some Ethics

Whether you love him, hate him, or have never heard of him, I think you can find some real irony in the situation House of Representative Member and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel finds himself.  Representative Rangel who is under investigation by the House for ethics violations, has now come under fire for allegedly using PAC (political action committee) funds to pay for his legal defense against the ethics charges.  Apparently, paying for your legal expenses for an ethics investigation out of PAC funds may in fact be an ethics violation of its own.  

I think its a bit funny and ironic to possibly commit an ethics violation in your attempt to defend yourself in an ethics violation investigation.  Its possible that Representative Rangel could be exonerated of the original ethics charges, only to be found to have violated House ethics in procuring the funds that resulted in said exoneration.  Of course, its important to note that he has not been found to have violated any ethical standards yet, but he sure has served up a nice slice of irony.

Yaow Back Tomorrow

In a definite bit of good news, Yaow gets out of the hospital tomorrow. Fortunately, everything went well.

It will be a little while before she will be at full strength, but it will be nice to have her back.  I told her friend Meow to let her know that I had not washed a single dish while she was gone, so that there was plenty for her to do when she returned.  She knew that I was joking of course.  

In fact, I did cook, do laundry, dishes and clean (okay, straightened up a little) this past week.  For the most part I didn't mess anything up too much.  I did bring the wrong pair of pants for Aleena's gymnastics practice on Thursday, but she was okay practicing in her one piece.  On Friday, I brought the wrong pants to dance practice.  I had the right style, but grabbed the wrong size.  I am not sure why the pair I bought for her next year was sitting with her other clothes, but we made it work.  

Still, very glad to see Yaow return and very happy that she is better.    

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wish You Still Snored

I was talking to my wife this morning after her run.  She was telling me how she had woken up early in the morning and couldn't fall back to sleep.  She wanted to talk, and couldn't tell if I was awake or not.  Then she told me "I wish you still snored, then I could tell if you were awake or asleep."

That is something that I never quite expected to hear.  As some of you know, I had sleep apnea for quite a few years.  I snored loudly and would stop breathing.  Miraculously, Tim was able to sleep through it all.  Finally, in 1998 I broke down and had surgery to remove my tonsils, fix my deviated septum, and remove my uvula.  

It was a pretty amazing transformation.  Not only did I stop snoring and sleep better, I started dreaming again.  It was such a vivid experience at first, because I had not remembered dreaming in over ten years.

As I put on some weight since the surgery, I started snoring again.  I no longer had apnea and didn't snore as loudly as I had before, but I still snored.  Apparently the exercise and weight loss has eliminated the snoring, or at least reduced it to the point where Tim can no longer hear it.    

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Embarrassing Videos

Over the last few months, there have been videos released on Youtube allegedly showing people associated with the Thai Supreme Court meeting with people who may have business before that court.  One of the first was an alleged meeting between the secretary of one of the judges and someone high up in the Democrat party.  There is currently a case before the court which could result in the disbanding of the Democrat party.

Recently there was a video that purported to show a meeting between a man associated with the court and some young men.  The conversation is supposed to involve the more senior man warning the younger men not to say anything about acquiring some tests.

There have been a dozen or so videos released.  The Thai government immediately moves to block these videos from viewing on Youtube.  They often get reposted, so its not clear how effective that is in preventing the dissemination of these videos.

How has the Thai court reacted to these videos which purport to show corruption and threaten to erase any credibility that the court might have?  Do they deny the charges or point out that the videos may not be what they seem to represent?  No, they declare that the videos are illegal and the government attempts to block them from viewing in Thailand.

I guess there is some irony in the fact that the men who found former PM Thaksin guilty of corruption are now embroiled in a corruption controversy themselves.  Ironic?  Perhaps.  Surprising?  No.

Freed For Now

The Myanmar military junta released Nobel Peace Price winner and pro-democracy activist Aaung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.  After the party it supported came out victorious in the rigged elections, the junta must have felt that she posed little internal threat, and that releasing her would somewhat ease the international criticism heaped upon them.

Ms. Kyi is free for now.  Of course if she goes on to start a true pro-democracy movement, as many of those in the West hope, she may find herself once again confined in her home.  Or, perhaps the government will allow her to exist as a symbol to placate the West, while making sure that any real democracy movement will fail.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sorry, Its Not a Free Speech Issue

Amazon is under fire for selling a book titled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure.  They defend their decision to sell the e-book on the grounds that not selling something a book because of the content is censorship.

I am definitely on the side of free speech, but Amazon has got this one wrong.  I believe that censorship by the government is wrong.  If the U.S. or another government tried to censor such a book, then there would be real free speech questions involved.  I might even find myself in the position of defending the legal right to publish of such a repulsive 

This is plain and simply about Amazon's choice to sell a product or not.  While they have the legal right to sell this book, they are not required to do so.  Just as it is Amazon's legal right to sell the book, so is it the legal right of consumers to show their displeasure with that decision.  If that displeasure is in the form of boycotting Amazon and its products, it could be a costly one for the online retailer.

Amazon may think that it is defending an important principle; that a book should be available even if it deals with an extremely unpopular or even repulsive topic.  Ultimately, however, Amazon is not an advocacy group, it is a business with shareholders and customers.  If decides to keep selling this title, which will likely sell very few copies, it might find that its principles are very expensive indeed, and those don't go well on the balance sheet.   

Bad Luck

Right now my car is in the garage for a slipped transmission, my computer monitor is in the shop, and my maid/nanny is in the hospital with appendicitis. Tim took Yaow to the hospital this morning and hopefully everything will go well.  

So for a while I am going to have to actually cook, clean and do laundry.  Well, at least order food in, and do enough cleaning and laundry to get by for a while.     

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Exercise Bug

As you probably know if you read this blog regularly, about two years ago I set out to lose a bunch of weight.  I was pretty successful, dropping in excess of fifty-five pounds over about a nine month period.  My success was largely due to exercise and diet.  I was a little off and on with the diet, but when I was exercising five or six days a week, sometimes twice a day, I had some latitude in my eating.

Over the last year, I put back on about twenty pounds of the weight that I had lost.  I think the high point was when I was back in the U.S. this summer.  My exercise routine was pretty dismal then, and I ate like a man who didn't care much about his waist.  

My goal had been to get back on track when I returned from the U.S., but a hurt foot slowed me down a bit.  I still exercised some, but my diet was terrible, and I couldn't run.  A few weeks ago, my foot finally felt better enough to run, and I started a bit of jogging. 

I decided on Halloween, of all days, that I was going to drop some more weight.  I put myself on a pretty strict diet for the first five or six days, and have relaxed it a bit.  In addition to avoiding eating a lot of food, I have pretty much given up sweets and stopped eating anything after dinner.  Tonight I did have a bowl of Captain Crunch for dessert, but that's about as far as I've gone with sweets.

The other part of the equation is my exercise routine.  Over the last ten days, I've exercised nine, taking off last Sunday.  I am lifting weights for thirty minutes three days a week, and running every day.  Most days I am running twice a day, I'll run about five kilometers in the morning, and another five in the afternoon or evening.  I'm not running very fast, and really don't care about my pace at this point.  My goal is just to get out there and do it, as I know time and effort will build endurance and speed.

One thing that I am a little wary of is over doing it, but I'm in that frame of mind where I don't want to take a day off.  A couple of days last week, I woke up thinking that I might just rest that day, but I couldn't.  I felt myself compelled to at least run.  My attitude now is a lot like it was when started two years ago.

So far I've definitely seen some success.  I am probably down around thirteen pounds from when I returned from the U.S., a decent chunk of that lost in the last few weeks.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm glad to be focused again.  

Over Three Years

I was playing around with the blog templates today, and it dawned on me that I have been posting to the blog pretty regularly for over three years now.  Of course, I've been living over here for three years, and since the purpose of the blog is to share some of my thoughts and experiences, I guess it makes sense.  

Still, when I started, I would not have been certain that I would have made it three years (blogging or living in Thailand).  Its nice that this didn't become one of those projects that I start and then abandon after its no longer new.  

And if you are reading this, thanks.


Today Tim and I took Jacob to get his passport renewed. We had to take him out of school in the morning to get it done, as the ACS (American Citizen Services) branch of the U.S. Embassy is open from 7:00 until 2:00 p.m., and minor passports require the minor and both parents.

I scheduled an appointment for 8:45 a.m., figuring that it would give us plenty of time with traffic. We ended up arriving just before our appointment. When you arrive at the ACS, you have to surrender your electronic devices and go through a metal detector. We were waiting in line behind a man (perhaps American) and a Thai woman. The man knew one of the people at the desk and was having a long conversation with him. I got the impression the guy was a jackass. Finally we managed to get around them, and then got stuck behind a Thai woman trying to go through the metal detector. She had a USB drive or something and was standing in front of the detector fishing through her purse. The guard just sits there and looks at her. Jacob walked through on his own, and he's telling us to wait. Finally Tim made a gesture to go through and we walked around her.

Everything went pretty smoothly except the photograph. I took Jacob's photo and printed it, but neglected to make sure it had a white background. It had a gray background. It would have taken me about thirty seconds in Photoshop or Lightroom to fix it, but once again I screwed it up. Its amazing; I'm actually pretty good with a camera and computers, but every time I deal with immigration, I end up having to fill in the same form at least three times, and there is always something wrong with the photos.

Fortunately, they let us go through the interview and bring photos back afterwards. There are a few places close by, so after we were finished, we went and had Jacob's photo taken. I returned it to the ACS while Tim took Jacob to Au Bon Pain.

A couple of interesting things. The woman who interviewed Jacob was from Florence Kentucky. The guy who was acting chummy with the guard at the front desk was having trouble of some sort. While many of the people at the ACS are Americans, there are also Thai people who work there. This man was talking to a Thai worker, and demanding to know the name of his boss. He had some sort of appointment, and was not pleased at how things were going. I later heard him complaining to someone else about something. I stand by my first assessment; jackass.

Of course, no trip to the ACS is complete without some weirdo fellow countryman. When I returned with Jacob's photos, I just had to go and drop them off at a window. I stood there waiting for someone to come over to make sure there end up in the right place. A man comes up next to me, looking red faced and perhaps a little like a bum. He put his paperwork through the slot, and I noticed that it had a 500 baht (about $15) bill with it. Trying to be helpful, I pointed behind him and said "you pay back there". He informed me that he had already paid.

Now, I'm not going to get into an argument with one of the less fortunate people who share my country of origin, but I'm wondering why the hell he is passing money through the window. I've read stories before that people who deal with the THAI immigration officials sometimes have to pay "tea money" to get paper work processed.  Even in those cases, its a little more subtle than shoving a visible 500 baht bill in the slot with your paperwork.  There is no reason that you need to slip a little extra money at the American Embassy.  My guess is that even for the Thai employees, its a pretty decent job, and I'm willing to bet that if you get caught accepting extra payments you will not be working there any longer.  Sure enough, the clerk came over and took everything but the money.  He then took Jacob's photos and attached them to the forms, before working on the other guys issue.

Jacob's passport should be ready in two weeks.  Fortunately, I can pick it up by myself.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Faux Elections

This week, the basket case of a country, Myanmar (formerly Burma) will hold its much touted elections.  The last time Myanmar had elections in 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi's party stormed to victory.  The ruling military junta at the time simply ignored the elections and Ms. Kyi has spent most of the last twenty years under house arrest.  She is scheduled to be released a week after the new elections.

Not willing to risk another embarrassing lost, the military junta has stacked the deck in its favor.  Twenty-five percent of the legislative positions are reserved for high ranking generals.  Since under the new Constitution it takes more than seventy-five percent to overrule the military leadership, the military will remain in command.  

Of course, even for the remaining seats, the elections are hardly fair.  There are two government/military sponsored party that comprise 2/3 of the candidates for elected office.  While the government provides financial support for these parties, it has put up many challenges for smaller parties.  Millions of Myanmar ethnic minorities have been ruled ineligible to vote.  

The purpose of the election is supposed to give some sort of legitimacy to the ruling junta's holding on to power.  I'm not sure who they think that they are fooling, because at least outside Myanmar, everyone knows what is going on.  I guess this might give some cover to countries like China who support Myanmar, but really, this election does nothing.    

Ms. Kyi's party has decided to boycott the sham elections.  The government threatened that if enough people do not turn out, they will simply cancel the elections.  For the people of Myanmar, I doubt that it will make any difference at all.  Does it matter if the guy who has a gun pointed at your temple and his boot on your neck is wearing a suit or an army uniform? 

Soccer Photos

Here are some photos from today's soccer games.


Jacob and his buddy Kavin before the game.


Making the save.




First Soccer Matches of the Season

Jacob and Aleena had their first soccer matches of the season today.  Nalin decided not to play this year.  

Aleena is in the 4-6 group "mini" girl division.  They don't actually have structured teams, rather we just form them into teams on a week to week basis.  Last year she played in the same league and there were more formal teams.  The reason that they didn't do that this year was that they didn't have enough girls sign up.  

Aleena enjoys soccer as a fun social time.  She does run around after the ball and kick it occasionally, but she isn't too serious about it, and is more interested in having fun with her friends that she is scoring or winning the game.

Of course things are a bit more competitive in the 10 to 11 year old league that Jacob plays in.  Jacob was the goalie, and in the beginning, he made some good saves.  Later in the game, however, the other team was able to score quite a few goals.  Some of them he might have been able to stop, while many others would have been very difficult.  His team won 12-7.  The score in the other 10-11 year old league game was 10-7, so I think at this age, the kids ability to score outstrips their ability to play defense and defend the goal.   

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Aleena's Thumb

Aleena is now sporting a huge white bandage on her thumb.  Tonight right before bed she managed to slam the bathroom door on it.  I became aware of what happened when I heard the high pitch scream emanating from said bathroom. She had a nice little cut just below her thumb nail.  I put a bandage on it, but was a little concerned because she kept screaming for the better part of fifteen minutes.  

Of course, I was only a little concern that the thumb was broken because Aleena is not very good at handling pain.  The fact that she didn't want to bend it wasn't a great sign, but didn't necessarily mean it was a problem.

Finally I decided to just go to the doctor.  There is a clinic run by Samitivey just outside of Nichada.  I'm having some car issues, so while my car is at the house and kind of runs, Tim had the keys with her at work.  Aleena and I ended up taking a cab to and from the clinic.

The good news is that it was only a cut.  The doctor gave her some pain medicine and we were back home within an hour of leaving.   


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I spend a lot of time behind the camera, but not really not that much time in front of it. Its even more rare that Tim and I are in a photo together.

While at Angkor Wat, I lugged around my tripod. Most of the time I didn't even bother using it, but on a few occasions I put it to good use. The one thing that it does well, besides keeping the camera perfectly still, is to let me get into the photos.

Tree in Angkor

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I was uploading some of the photos from Angkor to Flickr today. I really liked this one of Tim sitting on the tree with the temple as a backdrop.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Red Shirt Remorse

Its worth noting that back in May, in response to the red shirt protests and as an act aimed at reconciliation (at least it was stated to be that), the Prime Minister Abhisit offered new elections in six months time.  The protest leaders chose to reject that offer, and the results were more bloodshed and a perhaps a widening of the political divide.

The reason that I bring this up is that it is now approximately six months from the time the new elections were offered.  If things had gone as offered; and there is certainly a possibility that something else could have derailed said plans; we would now be gearing for an election Thailand.  The red shirt followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin would have a chance at leading the government again. 

Sometimes its worth the wait. 


Over the past week or so, there has been some severe flooding in Thailand.  It started in the Northern provinces but has now spread to the Southern ones.  Some places are under as much as three meters (~10 feet) of water.  The economic impact is estimated to be in the billions. 

We were actually very lucky that the storm did not come a week earlier.  The Koh Sumui ferry and airport are currently closed.  The Bangkok Post reported that the ferry to Koh Sumui was closed, although it wasn't clear if they were allowing people to leave the island.  There was a report that there were tourists trapped on a nearby island. 

Overall not a great year for Thailand.  At least this wound wasn't self-inflicted.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick Or Treat

Another Halloween has come and past. We split up this year. I took Jacob and a couple of his cub scout friends out, Nalin went with her friend Sydney, while Tim took Aleena and McKayla. Seriously, did I even have to say that Aleena and McKayla were together?

Overall it was fun. The other two boys were definitely not as gung ho about trick or treating as Jacob. One boy was ready to knock off after only an hour, and another maybe thirty minutes after that. Jacob would probably have gone on all night if there was candy to be had and I let him.

Nalin dressed up as a witch, although I never actually saw her in costume. She took her costume to Sydney's and got ready there. Aleena was "Gabriella" of High School musical fame. Jacob had a really cool robot costume that Tim made. He got a lot of compliments on his costume. At the end of the night, one neighbor declared that Jacob had the best costume that he'd seen all night, and dumped three handfuls of candy in Jacob's bag.

I took a few photos but they are more like snapshots. Next year I'm going to set up my lighting and get some nice shots of the kids.




Telling It Like She Sees It

While we were at the "grandmother" and "grandfather" rocks at Koh Sumui, there was a Thai-falang couple with her teenage son. They were up at the grandfather rock for quite a long time. The area up there was small, basically preventing anyone else from going up there. Additionally, it meant that they were in every else's shot, as they were right in front of the grandfather rock.

It wasn't something that I was going to complain about, because I knew I could easily crop them out and I didn't actually care if I went up to the rock itself. Still, I'm not a big fan of people monopolizing a spot, particularly when they are spending a good deal of it reviewing the photos (most likely poorly composed :D) that they just took.

When we were about to head out, the teen boy had come down off the rocks and told Tim that the view up their was great, and that we should go up. Here is the synopsis of the conversation:

Boy: You should go up there, the view is great. You can get lots of great photos.
Tim: Yes, I know, but people stay up there so long and monopolize the spot. That would let other people enjoy it.
Boy: Wait, my mom is up there still.
Tim: Yes, I know. (smiles)
Boy (screaming to mom): They are complaining about you staying up their so long.

I was a little distance away from Tim, and didn't realize the conversation took place until we were back in the car. If the guy had been a complete ass and confronted me about complaining, I would have had no idea what he was talking about.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Illin' In Ko Sumui

After a long days drive  to Koh Sumui, our plan for the first day was to relax at the beach.  The customer service  deficiencies of the previous night not withstanding, the hotel was located right on the beach and boasted both fresh and salt water pools.

In the morning I had a touch of diarrhea, but otherwise felt okay.  By lunchtime, I was not feeling well at all and went back to room.  In ended up spending Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday in my room.  I had stomach pains and diarrhea.  The worst part was Monday evening and night.  I was exhausted and sleeping off and on.  When I woke up and looked at my watch, I couldn't quite understand what I saw.  I comprehended that they were numbers, but didn't know what they were for.  I just didn't grasp that they represented time.

Tim and the kids spent one day visiting parts of the island and another on a day boat excursion.  Unfortunately, after our second day there, it started to rain.  My understanding is that we were feeling the effects of the tsunami in Indonesia.

By Wednesday evening, I felt well enough to go to dinner with the family.  We had grilled seafood, that while smelling fantastic, was a little bit disappointing.  The grilled squid was greed good though.

Thursday we visited the beach with the grandfather and grandmother rocks.  The reasons for the name is that there are two rock formations there that resemble human genitals.  When you see the grandfather rock, it definitely looks like a penis.  The legend is about a grandfather and grandmother sailing to look for their grandchild and crashing and dying on the island.    

After lunch we visited the big Buddha temple.  We might have visited some other sites, but the off and on rain made it much less pleasant.

On our final full day, we stayed at the hotel.  There was quite a bit of rain that day, so we didn't get to spend as much time at the beach.

Nothing really exciting happened on our trip back on Saturday.  We did see some wrecked cars on the side of the road.  In at least one of the accidents, it would not be at all surprising to learn that there were fatalities.

This certainly wasn't my favorite vacation. The rain and sickness certainly dampened the fun a bit.  Still,  the family had a good time.



Koh Sumui Trip - Getting There

The kids were off school this week for fall break, so Tim and I decided to take them to the beach. We decided on Koh Sumui largely because we hadn't been there yet, and its a pretty popular tourist destination.

We hit our first snag before we even left. Our original plan was to leave on Saturday the 23rd and return on the 30th. Tim had some urgent business on Saturday, so we pushed the trip back a day.

In order to save a little money, we decided to drive instead of flying. Koh Sumui is an island, so we have about an eight hour drive (with stops), an hour ferry ride, and then a half hour drive to the hotel. The one "X" factor is wait for the ferry. A friend told Tim that on some weekends that the wait can be up to three hours to get on the ferry.

The way down was largely uneventful until we were about an hour from the ferry when suddenly Tim blared the car horn bringing me out of whatever day dream that I was in. For some reason I glanced in the side view mirror and witnessed something that I can still see in my mind. A motorcyclist had lost control of his bike which was lying sideways on the road. The cyclist was suspended in the air over the bike, one arm still on the handle as if he were doing some balancing act. Of course that "act" ended almost instantly and he crash on top of the bike.

I turned and asked Tim what had happened. She said that a motorcyclist was weaving between the two lanes as she was approaching in the fast lane so she honked her horn to warn him. Apparently this startled him and he lost control of his bike and wrecked. I glanced back in the side view mirror and saw the man walking over to the side of the road.

We didn't stop for a few reasons. The cyclist was at least able to walk to the side of the road and by the time we saw what happened, he was quite a bit away. I'm not sure how long it would have taken to find a u-turn to get back to him. We hadn't caused him to crash, as he was driving a bit recklessly and Tim had honked to warn him.

The other less pleasant reason that we didn't stop is that if we did, there is a very good chance that he would have blamed us for the accident and tried to get money out of us. Its a pretty common thing here. When I was rear ended by a motorcyclist, clearly his fault, the driver hinted that I should pay. In that case, it would have been difficult to claim that I had struck him given the damage to my rear bumper. Had we stopped, I have no doubt that he would have claimed that we bumped him or came over into his lane.

We arrived at the ferry at about 4:50 p.m. and purchased a ticket for the 7:00 p.m. ferry. We had considered trying the other ferry about a kilometer down the road, but as the 7:00 p.m. ferry was the last of the day and there were only six spots left, we decided to wait. It turned out to be a good decision because we actually managed to get on the 6:00 p.m. ferry.

After the hour and twenty minute ferry ride, we arrived at the Imperial Sumui Hotel at about 8:00 p.m. We were all tired and ready to hit our rooms and go to sleep. After about ten minutes of Tim talking to the clerk, I suspected that there was an issue. We had picked the Imperial because Tim had bought some vouchers at a travel trade show. The issue since there were five of us, the hotel wanted us to upgrade rooms or book another room. This was going to cost us about $150 extra per night.

Tim said that she had spoken to the sales person who assured her that even though most rooms only allowed four people, that it would not be an issue. Well, it was an issue. About thirty minutes later we were packing up the car and ready to find another hotel when a manager came and asked us to wait. About fifteen minutes later, we agreed to pay a little more for the extra breakfasts and came to an agreement.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cub Scouts

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Last Saturday the Cub Scouts had an outing where they built the rockets and plane to use for the December outing.

More Vegetarian Photos





Through the Mirror

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
When I was at ISB for Jacob's cub scout meeting on Saturday, I saw a mirror and took the opportunity to shoot myself.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Good Wrench

Good Wrench
Originally uploaded by ebvImages
This was one of my favorite sights at the festival. I was amazed that he was able to get two wrenches that large in his mouth at once.

One of the amazing things is not only do these guys put things through their faces, but they then parade around for several hours. Some of the items, like the wrenches, may not be heavy for a short time, but imagine having to hold them in place for several hours while walking around in the heat.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ladyboys in Phuket

I was just struck by the number of ladyboys that I saw in Phuket. Most of the time its pretty easy to tell. Some are more difficult to discern from women, and there are those few who are just stunning.

You certainly can't miss them if you walk on Bangla Road and go past Soi Crocodile. Before their shows, they gather in the road and solicit customers to take photos for a fee. There may be some other solicitation going on as well. I pay two to take a few photos.



Another spot where there were a lot of ladyboys was on Beach Road. These individuals were not soliciting photos, but definitely massages and more. As I walked by, one quite striking individual propositioned me about a massage. When I politely declined, "she" asked me if I wanted "boom boom" (i.e., sex). Naturally I declined. I'll tell you though, if it were not for where this person was standing and the individuals around "her", I would have been sure it was a woman. I would hardly be shocked if some straight guys took her back to the hotel room only to find an extra "surprise" in that pair of panties.

Of course there were ladyboys at the Simon Caberet. The show was pretty good. The highlight of the show was an old fashion drag queen type. There was no mistaking this ladyboy for a woman. He did two songs, the first, Living in a Barbie World, where he was dressed in a pink outfit with fake breasts that looked the size of the orange construction cones. In the second, the performed I Will Survive. In both acts, he got involved with the audience and was generally hilarious.

It was pretty obvious that most of the Simon Caberet performers were not women. There a couple who looked fairly convincing.

Ladyboy from Simon Caberet

There were also a few ladyboys at the "traditional" massage shops. I became aware of this because there was one particular shop near the hotel. Whenever I walked by, this particular ladyboy would run out and offer her massage services. I must have told her know six times. Of course she asked seven times. Okay, not really. I politely declined each time.

So Many Massage Shops

There are so many massage shops in Patong Beach. I laughed when I saw the sign for this one.

Willy Massage Sign

I did not visit the shop, so I don't know if they will actually massage your willy at Willy Massage, but based on its location, I think it is probably on offer.

Brave Men

On the days I took photos of the parade, I arrived at the shrines at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m.  There were already several dozen people there each day.  Most people wore all white, while those who would undergo the piercings would wear a colorful traditional garb.  It was pretty clear that the participants were getting ready for their ordeal, as they walked around, shaking their heads and often murmuring to themselves.

When it was time to get ready, the man would sit on a plastic chair.  Another man, usually one bearing the scars of having done this in the past, would stand behind him and hold his head with both hands.  Another man had an eighteen inch cone shaped metal rod with a point on one end.  He cleaned the rod with alcohol, then poured some kind of oil on it.  He then pushed the rod through the participant's cheek, creating a hole up to two inches in diameter.  Next he would withdraw the rod, and put in another object, such as a wrench, pistol barrel, knife, saw blade, etc.  Usually they would then do the same thing for the other cheek.

Most of the participants were pretty stoic when it was happening.  One guy left no doubt that it hurt as he yelled out 'uh uh uh" many times.

It was pretty crazy when this happened, as many photographers, both falang and Thai would gather around and try to take photos.  If you weren't at the right place at the right time, it was difficult to get the shot of the piercing happening.  Everyone wanted to get the photograph, and the crowds were sometimes 5 or 6 deep.

I really lucked out one time.  I having limited luck getting a photo of one piercing, when someone came over and placed a plastic chair within arm's length of me and a man in a traditional outfit sat in the chair.  I knew that this was my chance.  I actually stood in between the handles of one of the little platforms that are carried on the shoulder and display idols.  From there, I ended up getting quite a few shots, even some as it actually pierced the cheek.  It was kind of cool.

The wounds certainly did bleed, but there wasn't really a whole lot of blood around.  There were people around who would dab off the blood when it was happening.  As they marched, there were also people with each participant who would dab off the blood.