Monday, May 29, 2017

"My Trip to the USA"

One of two excerpts from my wife's writings about first coming to the United States in the year 2000, written about ten years later:
 

My Trip to the USA
by Thiphawan Gault-Williams




On April 4, 2000 I flew from Thailand to the USA on China Airlines with my husband Malcolm. The plane stopped at Hong Kong International Airport. We transferred to another China Airlines flight, from Hong Kong to the USA. On that day the weather around Hong Kong Airport was so foggy and I couldn't see very well around the outside of the airport. We waited in Hong Kong Airport for a couple of hours before we boarded our flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles International Airport [LAX]. It took us about 21 hours including the transfer flight from Hong Kong.



LAX was so big. People spoke English, Spanish, and some other languages. I didn't understand what it was meaning because I spoke Thai. After our flight arrived at LAX we had to transfer to a domestic flight. Again we had to wait a couple of hours before we boarded our flight from LAX to Santa Barbara Airport.



The plane we flew in from LAX to Santa Barbara was smaller than China Airlines. When we arrived at Santa Barbara Airport it was twilight. After we arrived at the airport Malcolm drove back home. At the front door, written in Thai, was a sign that said, "Welcome home." It was so great for me to see those words. It has been my new home and my new life.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"How I Came to the USA"

Going back, again, to the writings of my wife, when she was first learning English in the United States. I've added photos from that time:


How I Came to the USA -- by Thiphawan Gault-Williams


One day I picked up a Thai newspaper. I saw an ad about seeing a man from outside Thailand to marry to be friends. I went to the agency because everything was almost for free except for translating the letter from English to Thai and from Thai to English. That cost about $4 for two pages.

At first they took my picture and then my address. They sent my picture and address to another agency called Thai American Service in the USA. They posted my picture on the Internet and then sold my address.

  
I had a couple of people write letters to me but it didn't work well because I didn't have much money to play for translating their letters. It took me a couple of months before I found the right one.

In June 1999 I got a letter from Malcolm, who is my husband now. We wrote to each other for about four months. He decided to visit me around my 28th birthday in October 1999.


After we had spent a couple of days together he seemed to be nice to me and we got along very well. He wanted to visit my family in my hometown in northeast Thailand. At first I couldn't say yes, because in my village if you bring a guy with you, people will think you are married, no matter yes or no.


  
I asked him to marry me in a couple of days if he wanted to meet my family. I don't know how I asked him to marry me either because it was the first time we had met.  At that time my English was so poor, but I did ask him for another thing. It was to pay a dowry for marrying me. He paid a dowry of about $7,000 for marrying me.

  
He visited me a couple of times and then we got married on March 23, 2000 in my hometown. On March 31, 2000 I got a visa to come to the United States. On April 4, 2000 I left Thailand. My trip was so long. It took me a day of sitting on the plane. It seemed to be an adventure for me because I came with a man I only saw a couple of times and only two weeks each time. Many people in Thailand talked about if you went outside the country with someone at first you had to be careful because it might be very dangerous. No matter what, I trusted him a lot.

My first day n the USA was startling. LAX was so big to me and I didn't understand the language very well. Most people spoke English, but I spoke Thai. That is how my new life in the USA began.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Boon Pakwet, 2017

Considered more as a weekend of partying and a warm-up to the Thai New Year (Songkran), Boon Pakwet (aka Boon Pahwet) is traditionally meant to bless and pray for the upcoming rice growing season and its successful outcome. It is not a Buddhist observance, per se, although it does have Buddhist trappings. When it’s prayer time, monks are there to lead the ceremonies, for sure.

Village Temple gate built with funds raised during Boon Pakwet 2012.

The first day is marked by extreme alcohol consumption, a march through the village and out to nearby fields, followed by prayers and chants. Afterwards, people break up but the drinking continues in smaller groups.

Second day, food booths are organized at the village temple (non-Kamattan); live Thai karaoke on stage is performed along with impromptu dancing. Most importantly, visiting delegations from villages around the area are met and their donations in the form of money trees are accepted. Village elders count the money and Buddhist monks deliver the blessings.

Counting the donations and receiving blessings.

A lot of people look like they’re drinking soda, but the plastic bottles usually contain rice whiskey (lao khao) or rice wine. Many people get “very mao” -- “mao mak.” If the temple was a Forest Tradition temple, there’s no way people would drink on the grounds -- even disguised.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Winter 2016/2017

Southeast Asia’s winters go from December through February and then rapidly ramp up in temperature. March begins summer -- the hottest time of the year (April-June). There is no spring season as many people used to four seasons would expect.

This winter, we lived out at the farm for the first time. I loved it, as I knew I would -- especially the clear skies that only occur at this time of year. To my surprise and pleasure, my wife not only enjoyed it, too, but got into it. For a year and more, she’s planted fruit trees and vegetables along the perimeter of our dirt pad, elevated from the surrounding rice paddies. Every day she irrigates and likes it.


Unfortunately, I got sick again this winter for a two-month period, just like last year (2015/2016). It was another bout with the flu followed up with a bronchial infection. Next winter, I will try flu shots to see if that helps. This pattern of annually being sick for one-sixth of the year -- at my age (68) -- can be dangerous.

Steaming sticky rice in the early morn.

The season was a transition period, as we learned what we needed to be comfortable out at our larger of two farms.

Take our bed for instance. The first few years of my retirement, we slept upstairs at our village house (ban how) on the floor on traditional Isaan mats -- foldable squares filled with a local organic “cotton” that grows from large pods on a certain type of tree. This is stuffed inside sewn squares of fabric. The ones we slept on had been stuffed and sewn up by Thip’s mother years ago.

It was OK, but lumpy and the two sets of pads would separate (Thip’s and mine), so there would always be a low spot in between us. I finally looped the two pads together with string which helped.

Later on, we elevated our bed so we were off the floor and sleeping mostly downstairs for convenience. Still, the mats were lumpy.

This winter, we didn’t have enough mats to keep both our bed in the village and the one out at the farm, so we were forced to improve the situation. I mean, how long should one put up with an uncomfortable bed, no matter where it is? So, Thip bought two slabs of two-inch thick latex inside cotton slips. One slab went to the village house and the other one to Ban Nah (farm house). They are great; no rubber smell and very firm.

Temple pool between our farm and the government road.

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