Sunday, June 17, 2018

Bad Beginnings

The new year 2018/2561 started off worse than any year that I can recall.

First, my back went out on me. I was doing my morning isometric exercises and I must have pinched a nerve in my spine. It might have also had to do with falling over on my motorcycle twice around New Year’s Eve -- once after partying and again the next day while parking my motorcycle without realizing that the kickstand was not down.

It felt like I had no strength in my back at all. I could get around, but it was painful. I had had this pain before when our dog Buffy caused me to lose balance on a walk and I fell on my back around 15 years before, in Santa Barbara. I didn’t bother going to a doctor, this time. All they would do is tell me is to rest and/or prescribe surgery.

A weak back is one thing, but losing a father is quite another. The pain in my back was nothing compared to the pain of losing my Dad. It was mitigated somewhat by the fact that Dad’s passing was not unexpected and that he was my second father, so I'd been through similar feelings many years ago.

(Dad and Mom and brother Pete, Ft. Myers, Florida, June 2017)

A third Factor was that Edwin Sartain Gault, Jr. -- first my guardian and then my adopted father -- passed peacefully in his sleep, at home, next to his wife. I can only hope to leave this world in such a way.

Not long after Dad's passing, my bad knee felt it was going to go out from under me. This was combined with the back pain and affected my mobility a lot it; probably osteoarthritis and a not so successful knee surgery years before.

I found that if I scaled back my physical activity, pain was less and my body seemed to heal itself -- at least enough so I could function normally. But, it took about a month.

My apparent physical weakening -- now at age 69 -- got me to thinking: What about my trips back to the USA to visit family and friends? And what about my vacation trips out of Thailand to renew my travel permit? Am I at the end of all of this?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

New Year's Eve 2017/2018

The year 2017 ended with a party at Bann Nah (aka Banna). My best Thai friend Sam Lott had promised to spend New Year’s Eve with me out on the farm and that's what he did, bringing along his wife Gai (chick).

Thip was still in of her vacation with friend Tana, but we were pretty much in daily contact mostly through Line. She helped coordinate the menu. Lott and Gai bought the goods. I bought beer and funded the operation.

I was pretty impressed with my friends being with me and very low key on the farm at night when it was such an exciting time for everyone in the Isaan. In contrast, at Sam Lott’s family house, lound speakers were plugged in and karaoke belching out non-stop, with many people drifting in and out.

Toward midnight and seeing the conversation lagging and fearing my friends would get bored with me, I suggested we go over to their family party for The Countdown. This we did and -- with even more beer drunk -- I had a hell of a time making it back to the farm, Sam Lott riding along on his motorsai just to make sure I made it back OK.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Music Faves of 2017

Some of the songs that were in “heavy rotation” on my smart phone in 2017...

(my bags I take just about everywhere I go, 
the zippered one usually holds my cellphone)

Posted from most favorite to less favorite:

The big hit, this year, throughout Thailand: Mike Piromphon’s “Change Your Mind”...

From Lao Trip 17, Fall 2017: “Pai Jai” by Mai Charoenpura, from 2014:

Fall 2017, a day or two after Tom Petty died. It was also Ohpensa and a favorite time of mine to hang out at night at the farm, watching the sky:

Another one from the Savan trip. Usually watch a lot of karaoke travelling in Lao:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Christmas Comes to Bann Nah

I know it’s Winter in the Isaan when Thip and I have to sleep under the covers at night. Showering in the morning calls for hot water. Throughout the rest of the day, long pants and a shirt often replace the shorts and no-shirt that is my usual attire.

This Winter, Thip took a trip around Thailand with her best friend Tana from the United States. That left me alone for nearly a month. It took some getting used to, but we were in communication almost every day thanks to our “smart” phones.

Before Thip left, we decorated our home in the Christmas spirit, even though neither of us are Christian.

That’s Christmas, pronounced krit-mut.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fall Season 2017

After the annual rice harvest, the other big events of the Fall Season are Boon Katin and Loy Kratung. Both of these Buddhist observances I only put light attendance at, this year.

The thing that I enjoy most about the Fall Season is the clear night-time skies. Due to high humidity through most of the year, it's not easy to star gaze until Fall and Winter. Winter, it often gets too cold to hang outside at night, so Fall is really the time to just sit out under the skies and get in tune with some of the movements of the Earth and the bodies outside our Planet.

And, now with the addition of phone apps, knowledge of what we're seeing is much easier to learn than ever before.

Thip's and my routine of shuttling between our village home (ban hao) and our farm home (ban nah) -- that we had begun last year with the completion of Bann Nah -- continued on for its second year, but has changed a lot.

Thip no longer spends much time at our village home, although I'm there every morning, taking advantage of our fiber optic cable and an Internet service level that's 95% faster than anything else in Thailand. In the afternoon, I do the grounds maintenance there, at our rental property (ban sao) and out on our 9 rai farm. So far, I've left our 8.5 rai farm for Thip's brothers to look after.

Neither Thip nor I sleep at the village house anymore, really. Well, I will occasionally, depending on what Thip's doing. If she is away overnight to another temple or on vacation, I'll break up my sleeping pattern just to make sure both our homes have a perceived presence at night. In the 6 years I've been retired here in the Thai countryside, we haven't had any break-in's, but that's not to say there won't be at some point.

By the late afternoon, I'm back at Bann Nah, where Thip is, most of the time. She's really gotten into planting fruit trees, orchids and flowers which has beautified the place tremendously. If she's not on the farm, she's shopping at the local farmers market or Nong Bua Lamphu city. Or, she's doing something in service for the temple.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Harvest 2017 - Farm #2

Once the harvest is completed at one farm, it's on to the second -- but not the last. There are usually others, as family members help relatives and friends on their farms, just as they had with ours.

Malcolm with Gop T-Shirt as mask

With our 9 Rai Farm done, a couple of days later the action moved over to our 8.5 Rai Farm and the one rai family farm next to it.

Even Khun Mae -- mother to all the immediate Thai family -- was there.

When all rice had been bagged up, we all took a little break for some soda, beer, lao khao and food. After this, all the guys moved on to Yah's farm to help him, his family and friends bring that one in:

Yah and thresher crew boss.

There was probably a little party after this one, but I wasn't invited and didn't stay long enough after the threshing to be. Yah is a friend, looked after me on my first Thung Yai trip, and is a good guy who always seems to be struggling financially. He's a relative, too.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Harvest 2017 - Bagging & Party

While threshing khao nio (glutenous rice), bagging is begun. This is basically phase four of five phases to our annual rice harvest (giao khao).

It might seem a bit backward to use a thresher (just separates the already-dried rice in its kernal from the stalks) instead of a combine (rakes up the rice stalks, separates the rice and bags it), but it is actually more efficient for us. For one thing, there's a lot of spillage using a combine -- more so than handling it by hand. The other thing is that even though it gets bagged by the combine, the rice still needs to be taken out of the bags and dried, as the combine needs to collect the rice on the stalks before it completely dries out.

Threshing does not take long and often becomes an event shared with not only family, but friends as well. Everyone helps out.

The bags are taken from the thresher and lined up for sealing and counting.

After everyone's had a little rest complete with ice, soda, beer and lao khao (depending on your preferences), the tresher crew gets their percentage and the bulk of the bags are loaded onto various transports including trucks and Kubota-driven carts.

The bags are then transported for storage at the family house and other family member storage areas.

After phase 5 (transport and storage) has been completed, it's time to eat, drink and party!