Friday, 30 November 2007
This usually means pretty Thai girls in nice outfits giving away free things to try. So I ventured over to see what they were setting up.
I ventured inside one of our rooms and found teachers having their bones checked. Miss B the Head of EBP was at a table being helped by two lovely ladies.
I was very keen to sign up as well but I was afraid that these 2 princesses didn’t speak a lot of English and I was happy to just admire them at work.
The people were dressed in outfits that had a skeleton on them. This guy looked very handsome.
What they were doing was testing the bone density. So you would put your foot opposite to the hand you write with in this little machine and they incredibly delightful lady would push some buttons and then there was a little squeeze on above your ankle and you were finished.
This girl was just so, so cute.
They would spray some magic liquid on your ankle area just before the test. Why they did this, I have no idea.
This guy was as gay as gay could be but was really fashionable, he had a cowboy style scarf around his neck and his hair was immaculate.
So after stalking the girls inside for a little too long, I went outside to see the promotional girls giving away taste tests of the product that promotes strong bones. It is a milk drink or something along that line that is high in calcium.
All the teachers who I talked to, their printouts of their tests were good and their bones were fine and strong. So they will sleep better tonight.
I didn’t actually get tested. I was worried about taking off my smelly shoe and sock and then having the poor girl doing the test fall over, but again I could have administered first aid.
I am going to get belted when my lovely other half reads this post. Wish me luck.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
So the team leaders have to spend the entire week practicing their teams in chanting. Yes, this year we are lucky and it is only 1 week of practice, usually it is a least 2 weeks. It’s the same chants and songs every year.
So the students sit and chant along to the songs and cheers. It’s all a lot of fun.
The older boys weren’t really into it and just hang around at the back of the group chatting.
The team leaders were trying hard to get the students into the mood. The hard part was getting themselves into the mood.
As you can see by the student’s expressions they are going crazy.
This is one of my team leaders from blue. He wants to a girl and is a classic to watch when talking and dancing. On Sports Day I cannot wait and see all the teams dressed up and especially the katoeys, always a barrel of laughs.
And the cheering went on with enthusiasm that was hard to contain. Thankfully it is Friday tomorrow, so only two more days of practice and then the games begin on Tuesday.
There will be a heap of very interesting pictures to post next week and I am sure many will make you look twice, just trust me on that.
My next door neighbour has just had his house repainted. The set-up of the scaffolding is incredibly easy. All you need are long pieces of bamboo and some rope and you have scaffold.
The workers just scramble around on the scaffold like monkeys using one hand to hang onto the bamboo and the other to their paint brushes and paint tins. They sanded down all the polished timber eaves first and also the walls of the house. There were 2 guys on the scaffold painting and another pair sanding the rest of the house.
I watched these guys for a good 5 minutes and they just looked so at ease on the basic scaffolding. They would piss themselves laughing if they seen what was needed back in the land of Kangaroos. They would think that farangs were even crazier than they already do.
All up they took 5 days to finish the entire house and I haven’t enquired to how much it cost, but I am sure compared to back home it would be peanuts.
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
I breezed through the day and then returned home. Noot had been trying to fool me into believing that she had forgotten my birthday and I was happy to play along. She mentioned last week that we would go out for dinner tonight (my birthday) to shout her sister and her boyfriend dinner for running us around when we were purchasing the car.
I couldn’t help but be a little bit of a pain of the ass and playing up. I kept saying that it’s not a good idea on a school night as I have a lot to do and be in bed early and also the restaurant she had chosen would be freezing cold. Each time I got death stares and an explanation for why we had to go on this night.
So we went for dinner and it was very cold and then returned home. My birthday hadn’t been mentioned and I was happy to play along. I parked the car and the girls ran inside the house.
I walked in the door and was greeted by 2 funny grinning Thai girls.They were both standing and they were holding something behind their backs. I told them they were (ting tong) or a little crazy or whacky. I went to walk past them and they shoved 2 presents into my face. Wow, what are these for? They giggled like little school girls.
So I unwrapped the presents and what was inside. Well, I got a lovely little teddy bear and also some soft gloves and a beanie.
This is crazy me. I am normally like this all the time.
The teddy bear has รัก พ่อ this translates into Ruk Phaw or in English ‘Love dad’. So it was a very sweet gift from young Benjawan.
Noot has been listening to me whine for the last few weeks about how bloody cold it is here. Now for you who only think of Thailand as hot, sorry, you are wrong. In the cold season, especially in Isaan country it gets chilly and the temperature drops to under 10 degrees Celsius. The hat has ‘every moment 68’ on it. I think it was meant to be ‘69’ but ran out of the number nine.
So I am a happy little camper now and I can sit in my chilly bedroom and type away on the internet and not freeze to death. Latte my lovely spoilt rabbit will often spend some time on my lap while I play around.
He is the ‘king’ of our house and can pretty well do whatever he wants, to a certain degree. He spends most his time out of his living area just wandering around the house and can go into any room he likes as most have been “rabbit proofed”. He is a really good rabbit and doesn’t chew too many things. I keep him well feed and plenty of toys to chew on so if he isn’t bored he doesn’t destroy things.
So that was my special day for the year. Another year has gone by so fast, a blink of the eye you could say. I am looking forward to the 1st of December as Noot is itching to put the Christmas tree up and decorations. She is driving me nuts asking if she can do it now and I say ‘It’s bad luck?’ to which she replies ‘Why?’ I tell her my mum said so. So Nancy, you are to blame for this Thai girl for driving me nuts.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
The first Loy Krathong was made by Noppamas 700 years ago. “Loy” means “to float”, and “Krathong” is a lotus shaped vessel made of banana leaves and stems, Inside the krathong it’s brightly decorated with bright flowers, coins, three joss sticks or incense sticks and an orange candle being lit before it is set free. Orange symbolizes the Buddhist monkhood, so lighting an orange candle is more an act of religious devotion than simply providing light and beauty to it.
There are several reasons that people take part in this festival. The traditional purpose is to thank the Goddess of the Waters, Mae Khong Kha, for providing enough water for the rice fields, and other crops, and thereby producing a bountiful harvest.
In general, it is to thank her for giving us the use of her water for our lives. It is also to ask forgiveness for having dirtied her waters.
There is another reason that Thais like to celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival. These days it also provides an opportunity for some spiritual cleansing. The small prayer before releasing the krathong often includes an avowal to let go of any lingering grievances and resentments towards fellow men.
People believe that as it floats away it takes with it all the bad luck that has dogged them through the year, and that the wishes can be made for the New Year due to come.
We can be joyful and happy after we have floated away our sufferings. This is why some added fingernails clipping or strands of hair and a coin in the krathong. The festival has both animist and Buddhist elements.
There are also other beliefs about Loy Krathong. It is said that if the candle remains alight until it is out of sight, one’s sins are forgiven.
While a quick expiration of the flame, on the other hand, bodes badly.
They also say that couples can get an insight into the future of their relationships by watching whether their krathongs float snuggly together or drift apart.
So another words Noot and I are doomed as I placed my Krathong well away from hers and our flames went out very quickly as it was blowing a gale. Doomed I say!
The following are some Krathongs from a competition. The monks at the local village temples make them and they are judged by experts on the subject.
This is our local villages offering and it looked really good.
This was plastic; I really liked it but was told it wouldn’t be judged highly because of the use of plastic.
This one was made from silk material and looked a little odd. I had never seen a Krathong like this.
This is a very well made dragon. A lot of skill is used to create these. I tried to fold the banana leaves and was bloody useless and that’s being polite.
These are the really good plastic looking peacocks, I was still impressed.
Just before they announced the winner of the Noppamas Queen Contest, who was Ben, the announced the Krathong winner. And it was Barn Tai Gow. There were large screams of joy and the local elder who looks after the monks gladly went up to collect the trophy. This is the winning Krathong up close.
So that is the report and I hope it enlightened you a little on the festival and why it’s so important to Thais. I hope I haven’t made any of you fall asleep.
They said a lot of people go there and this was correct. We arrived at the lake and were directed this way and that way in bumper to bumper traffic. After just over 40 minutes of crawling we left the area through a maze of little back streets and headed towards Noot’s university.
We arrived and there were also a lot of people but it was much easier to park and walk a small distance to where all the action was.
There were little stalls set-up everywhere and here some girls were in Thai outfits and dancing ‘Lum’ style.
This was a popular set-up. 3 tennis balls and you could dunk your poor friend into freezing cold water.
People were lined up to have ago at dunking their friends.
This poor guy didn’t last 30 seconds before getting dunked. He was shivering and shaking like he had the DT’s after a minute of being dunked.
Walking down the small laneway between the shops was slow and steady going because of all the people and lots of young kids with parents.
Now as always there were dickheads. These total toss pots were so mentally challenged that they decided to ride their motorcycle slowly amongst the crowd carrying a carton of beer. These two wouldn’t be able to work out how to get a root in Pattaya. Backyard hicks.
Here you can see some people offering some prayers before releasing their Krathongs. It was chilly as you can see most people wearing large coats and the little girl is well rugged up in a dressing gown with a furry looking foxtail around her neck.
This is Doi with her Krathong. A bargain at 20 baht.
Doi offering her prayer or wish.
Doi floating her Krathong away.
There was a constant stream of people heading onto the platform.
Here there are many of the Krathongs that had been released by people touching the edge of the lake. There were people walking around the edge of the lake picking things off the Krathongs. It was more than likely money or the unburnt candles because it was so windy.
So that was my Loy Krathong Festival for 2007.
Monday, 26 November 2007
He basically tells HRH the King that he works any chance he gets to make money for his parents and 2 siblings. He gets 40 baht a night to stand guard over a duck coup, carry sacks of rice from 8am to 5pm for 50 baht, and if this work isn’t available will go hunting to catch frogs and snakes to sell.
The dad is a manual worker who finds work when possible and sadly his mother is mentally ill. The letter was investigated by the King’s people and it all seems to be above board.
This is what one of his teachers said about him. His teacher, Lamai Sangkrit, praised Chatree as a dutiful and good son. "He loves his parents, his siblings and his friends. He cares about them much more than himself,"
I can honestly say that this case could be repeated a thousand times all over Thailand but praise the young boy for his effort in helping his family.
They have been assisted by being given equipment for their current lodging, and will be given a house under a project in honour of His Majesty would be given to Chatree's family and it would be located on a plot of land near a pond.
So a happy story from Thailand that has warmed my heart a little.
This was also a similar story from Pattaya News about an 11 year old girl Pattaya City News - 11 year old girl needs help.
Her plight came to light after concerned teachers investigated a little into the girl’s life. They found she lived in a rundown shed behind a Chinese cemetery with her unemployed dad.
He brought them to Pattaya in search of his wife and her mother ten years ago with no luck.
The Deputy Mayor stepped in to help and has set-up a savings account with an undisclosed amount of money to help her out and people can also offer donations at a branch of the bank across of Thailand.
You can call the Pattaya City Council for more information on the pair if you want to donate some money.
I am so cynical now after living here for a while. I wish I could trust these stories more or have more faith but that has left me a long time ago.
Young dirty street kids don’t get a second look from me, old ladies with young kids are the same and even people with disabilities like a missing leg don’t get my pity anymore.
I am going to contact the Pattaya City Council about the girl and check out all I can. If it does all seem above board I will pray that my small donation goes to good use. I do have a hard heart but it is also soft in places at times, but not often. I think it was the picture of the girl’s face, a look of utter sadness but also thankfulness as well.
I will look at it as my good deed or merit making for the year. I will give in good faith and what happens later is up to others. I hope they are steered well by powers above, below or on the side.
A soft hearted Brunty.
P.S. It’s nearly Christmas.
This is an update on this story 11 year old girl update.
This story was in the Bangkok’s Nation Newspaper. I am not sure if the heading is meant to surprise people that Thai police are corrupt.
Bangkok's Independent Newspaper. Pirates gave police 40 million baht a month.
In an area in Bangkok a top ranking police officer has made acquisitions that the police in the area were receiving 40 million baht a month to turn a blind eye on pirated movies being sold.
Now really, this isn’t a surprise to anyone, is it? What I don’t understand is you can walk into MBK Shopping Centre and there is store after store selling pirated movies. If you buy a large amount you can get them for 40-50 baht each. So who are these stores paying off?
I can tell you 100% that this is even going on here in sleepy old Ubon Ratchathani. I have a very good friend who has to look after the men in brown. He has stalls at 2 markets and pays 8,000 baht for one month and 10,000 baht for a month at the other which is weekends only.
At the weekend market there are at least 8-10 CD, DVD and movie stalls. So that’s 80,000 baht a month that some people are receiving. There are plenty of places where these pirated items are sold all through the Ubon area.
When I see these headlines I am a little miffed about what they are trying to fool the people who are reading the story into believing. There are too many men in brown who receive very little and this sort of income supplements this so they can live a more then comfortable lifestyle.
If the police really wanted to do something constructive, it would be good for them to start a blitz here in Isaan country of motorbike riders without helmets, licenses, Motorbikes that are unregistered, unsafe and so forth. Also if they come down hard on drink drivers, riders and people that speed excessively fast.
Now this would be constructive and eventually save many young Thai peoples lives. It would take an effort that police have never invested before but could be done, if they wanted too.
Although if they virtually stamped out these illegal and dangerous things mentioned above, the police wouldn’t get their bonuses that they receive from writing tickets to the law breakers. So why don’t they increase the policeman’s pay and not give bonus kickbacks for doing the job they are actually employed to do. It is the way the system is set-up that needs to be looked at. If you take away the dangling carrot there is nothing to chase then.
Well, that’s my rant on this subject anyway. I am sure I will get some of the funny emails I receive at times when I write about these things. But hey, I am just giving my two cents worth and that’s it. So send me your warnings and I will put them on the pile with the others, they come in handy as toilet paper.
This is meant to be a democratic country, isn’t it?
Sunday, 25 November 2007
This contest is named after a beautiful woman called Noppamas, who was the chief royal consort in the reign of Somdet Phra Ruang about 700 years ago. King Mongkut or better know as Rama IV wrote about this story or tale in English in 1863. You can read the full writing of the King here The First loy Krathong Festival Story by King Mongkut..
This is a brief summary. One year Noppamas made some special lanterns for the festival made from banana leaves that were shaped like Lotus flowers. The king was so impressed that he decided that these Krathongs would be floated every year from then on.
To remember the lady who created the first Krathong “The Noppamas Queen Contest” is now competed for at many places throughout Thailand on this night.
Now Noot’s younger sister Benjawan (Ben) usually looks like this. She is a just sixteen year old going on 20 at times and 7 at others. The other night she was asked to compete in a Noppamas Queen Contest just 3 days before the night. She asked my permission and I said ‘Yes’ of course.
Noot competed in this same event and won it in 2048 or another words 2005. Now this is what Ben looked like after 6 hours of magic. The whole lot cost 2,000 baht for the dress hire and make-up. A bargain I say.
Close up. This isn’t the Ben I know.
Noot and Ben before the contest started. Noot looks very dark as Ben is plastered in white make-up. White is beautiful here in Thailand.
These are Ben’s old school friends. Ben used to study at the same school and she loves to dance and sing but her grades were terrible. So that meant a change in schools and study hard for the next 3 years and also do some singing but education comes first now.
Ben's friends singing and dancing.
The hosts for the night were the same for the last 3 years. They work a crowd perfectly and the people love them especially the guy. He said ‘hello’ in English and asked ‘where I was from?’ Then in Thai he asked if I knew who he was. I said “No”. He spoke in Thai to the crowd saying the farang didn’t know him and they all laughed. I then said in Thai that I did know him, I thought. He was the guy on the radio. A big smile was on his face and when he told the crowd they all clapped for some reason.
The competition was only ten girls this year. When Noot competed there were 20 odd. There was plenty of competition though and all the girls looked lovely.
Ben had to make her way down to the lake and float her Krathong. Not an easy task all wrapped up and was assisted by a friend from the village also a past winner of the contest 5 years ago.
Here a very happy Ben is coming back in line from the lake after floating her Krathong and making her wish for the coming year.
This is one part of the competition. The girls are involved in a fundraiser. You buy pencils at 20 baht each and then give them to the girl who you want to win the Miss Popular sash. Here Ben is receiving pencils from some friends.
Here Ben’s sisters Noot and Joom are giving her pencils.
And more pencils just kept on coming.
They are judged on posture, appearance, dress, walking, waiing (Thia greeting or bow) and also they have to answer a question from the host. Ben was contestant number 7 and she was waiting her turn to pick an envelope.
The question was roughly “what can we do in the villages to stop young people from drinking and taking Yaba (like ecstasy but makes them crazy)” Ben’s answer was that she believed young people needed to find more hobbies like playing sports with friends and doing fun things together as families. Teenagers need to take their study seriously and try very hard to improve themselves for their future. For people who didn’t study they needed to learn new skills that will help them in the future as in employment that will help support their family. This was met with loud screams and applause from the entire crowd and not just the home village supporters. It was funny as Noot was in tears after Ben had answered the question.
So the time had come to choose the winner. All the scores from 7 judges needed to be added up. There were a few more songs and dancing and then the girls all filed back onto the stage. The Miss Popular vote went to contestant number 8 and she also was announced as the runner up for the title.
The winner was announced. The hosts made the crowd yell for them to stop stalling and hurry up and then the name was read out. Benjawan Taemai from Barn Tai Gow was Miss Noppamas Queen 2007 (2550). A huge scream went up in the crowd and there were tears of joy from the sisters. Ben was getting ready to receive her sash and trophy.
The sash was presented to her from a local government official.
Miss Noppamas Queen 2550 Benjawan Taemai.
After her friends wanted pictures with her of course as now she’s a star.
Ben and Miss Noot together. Both winners of the title 2 years apart.
I was eventually forced to have a picture with Ben after she threatened to kill me if I didn’t hurry up. It’s like Beauty and the Beast. I know it’s not nice calling Ben a beast. As you can see it is very cold here in Isaan at the moment and would have been around the low 10-12 degree mark, maybe.
There was one sad part to the night when they asked Ben to sing a song; none of the other contestants were brave enough. She did this as she loves to sing and has been doing so for many years and in front of very large crowds.
Noot, Ben and Joom’s dad died in December 2005, a few weeks after Noot won the title. We have a very nice picture of Noot and her father together on that night. Their dad was a typical village story for older Thai men. Drink to much and not work hard enough and sadly it brought about his death well before it should have.
Ben sang a song that is about missing your father, I have no idea why she picked this song and was heartbreaking listening to her sing it. I had to hide as I had tears running down my cheeks as I new she was thinking of him. Noot was also in tears. When Ben finished there were tears streaming down Ben’s face and also of many of the villagers.
So that was one part of the festival and as always I took many pictures and will post many more over the coming days.