Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lao Trip 16.2 - Lao Derm Savan

I spent part of my visa fee barring, last night, so this morning I had to hassle a little bit to get the full 5k baht. The Thai consulate does not accept Lao kip, so I had to have the full amount in baht. My friend Mr. Loi helped me, providing transport. I got to see his daughter Jinta very briefly.

I submitted my paperwork and application without problems. Tomorrow afternoon, I will hopefully pick up my passport stamped with another lease on life in Thailand.


Back at the Riverside, I got caught up on my writing at Lao Derm Savan. The Nam Khong was rougher than usual, so I shot some video trying to capture it. I just couldn’t get it. Being on a floating restaurant off the banks of the Mekong after days of rain and flooding eluded my ability. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it although the waitress clearly did not. It reminded me a little bit of that time in PL2 when the rain storm blew in as we were partying at Koun Ten.



Towards sundown, I ate some ping gai (bar-b-que chicken) at one of the Riverside vendor’s tables, stopped for a beer at both Savan Khaim Khong and the live music place which I think is called something “View,” then retired to Nongsoda, calling it somewhat of an early night -- at least not late.

Another popular video, currently: https://youtu.be/2dg9oc78Kv4


Monday, August 14, 2017

Lao Trip 16.1 - To Savan

It used to be that my wife would drop me off at the highway (210) and I would catch a sawngtheaw from the side of the two lane highway to the Nong Bua Lamphu bawkawsaw. Now that the highway’s gone to a divided four-laner, Thip takes the ring road to drop me off at the bus station on her motosai.

The bus leaves Nong Bua at 6am for Khon Kaen. From there, I switch to the 9:50am going to Mukdahan.

By the end of the afternoon, I’m at the Mukdahan bus station where I board the bus for the border. The border bus drops you off at the Mukdahan immigration complex on the Thai side of Friendship Bridge II. Here you purchase your bus ticket; seems a little off, but this is how they do it. To me, it makes more sense to buy the ticket when you first board the bus at the Mukdahan bawkawsaw.



Anyway, be sure to get your ticket before stamping out of Thailand. Once on the other side of the kiosks, you show your ticket to the bus driver who has advanced the bus up the driveway a bit. The bus then takes you across the bridge and drops you off at the Savannakhet immigration complex where you purchase your one-month Lao visa and stamp in to Lao. From here, you arrange local transpo into town. Be careful of taxi or tuk-tuk prices. If they sound a bit over, then they are. Feign disinterest and you can bring them down in price. It’s actually a game they love to play.

I was quoted 200 baht into town. I laughed and said “mak, mak” (too much), turned away and then let the drivers that had crowded around me know I was going to call a tuk-tuk friend of mine. It was all good fun, as they realized I spoke a little Isaan and they liked that. One guy came down to 100 baht and pointed out that my friend wouldn’t charge me any cheaper. I knew he was right and agreed. Turns out, he was going home for the day, so it worked out for him, too.

I had him drop me off at Nongsoda Guesthouse, in the Riverside section of town, not far from where the old Thai consulate used to be.

I’ve been up and down about Nongsoda ever since the day I really needed a decent room and got a very poor one. But, it is my preferred place of stay as it is right next to the Mekong and within an easy walk to bars, bar-restaurants and the “Riverside vendors.” Sometimes I stay at Intha Guesthouse which is more private and right on the Kong. If I had my wife or a girl with me, this is definitely where I would go. But, the price is better at Nongsoda, so if I can get one of their sunny rooms, I will take it.

After a shower, a visit to Savan Khaim Khong is always in order. I liked the old location better, but I had one of my standout nights at the new location, in 2015, when I met Jittzy and her friends.



This late afternoon/early evening was uneventful, but I had fun drinking Beer Lao (can’t easily get in Thailand, yet), eating squid (pah-merk), watching Thai luktung and pop videos... and reminiscing on the times I’ve been here (2014, 2015, 2016).

The relatively new Korean bar-b-que place was already out of business, but next door in the location of the old Savan Khaim Khong was a bar (View) featuring singers and musicians. So, of course, I stopped in for another beer.



I was happy to see the Riverside vendors back in operation. Something had happened with the planned riverside “improvements,” so the city let things revert back to the way they had been. Fine by me. This is a part of Lao I will enjoy until I no longer can.

Popular Thai video/song, currently: https://youtu.be/zCLZL-RV1tY



Monday, August 7, 2017

Lao Trip 16.0 - Preparations

Soon after returning from my annual trip back to the USA to visit family and friends, I made preparations for my 16th trip to Lao (Laos). This was to be my fourth visit to Savannakhet to obtain my one year, multiple entry Thai visa based on marriage to a Thai national. I could have gotten my visa in California, but it’s easier, cheaper and more fun for me to go to Savan. Even so, by necessity, I had to be well organized ahead of time. I had to have all my documents in order:

· application form
· two passport pictures
· passport
· original marriage certificate
· one copy of marriage certificate
· one copy of my passport page, dated and signed by me
· one copy of wife's Thai ID (front and back), dated and signed by wife
· one copy of wife's blue book (tabian bann), dated and signed by wife
· 5k baht
· letter from my wife showing we are still married


Thip and I had pretty much had this stuff already. It was just a matter of putting them all together, signed and dated...

Friday, July 28, 2017

New Bungalow

For their 17th wedding anniversary, most women would ask for a diamond ring, gold, exotic vacation or at very least a costly weekend shopping spree. Not my wife. All she asked for was a small bungalow near Ban Nah for her aging mother and also her sister, who has been their mother’s primary caregiver these past six years.

As you can guess, if you’ve read about my honeymoon being over, I did not really want any members of my wife’s family living in close proximity to us, out on the farm. But, how could I deny my wife? I was so proud of her for thinking of her mother and sister so much, rather than herself. But, that’s not unusual for Thip. That’s the kind of jai dee (good heart) wife I have.


We hired Thip’s cousin Summai and his two helpers to do the work for us. As usual, I assisted with staining, painting and morale maintenance (beers at end of day). Back in 2013, Summai had helped us fix up our village house downstairs and put a new roof on the ground floor section.


The most interesting thing I learned during the bungalow construction was about old windows. They sound bad, but there are several reasons why old windows -- windows and window frames salvaged from torn down traditional Isaan houses that are still in good shape -- sometimes are superior to new ones: they’re cheaper, most of the time better constructed, fully constructed (windows and jams already put in) and made from better wood. It was Thip’s idea to help keep costs down and still have plenty of windows for good air-flow and light. I was actually surprised they were so much better... and a coat of stain dressed them up just fine.



Turns out that Thip’s mother -- Khun Mae -- is so fragile, Khun Paw and family thought it better not to move her out to the farm with us. At first, I was a little mad because of the money invested. But then I realized the decision was a good one. Reasons: 1) last thing we needed was for Khun Mae to die out here. We would certainly be blamed. 2) Since she’s in full dementia, probably better to keep her in the same house where she spent most of her life and raised her family. 3) Certainly easier to take care of her in the village. 4) This way, Thip and I get to maintain our privacy.




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Songkran 2017

Getting back to our lives in Northeastern Thailand, in the beginning months of 2017...

After the Boon Pakwet warm-up, we -- along with the whole country -- celebrated Songkran during the hottest part of the year -- April. It is based on the Buddhist lunar calendar, not the solar. In Thailand, it is called the Thai New Year; in Lao, it is called the Lao New Year; in Cambodia it is the Khmer New Year. I’m not sure about other parts of Southeast Asia, but I’d bet their new year is the same time, too.

Technically less than a week long, Songkran goes on for a full two weeks during which numerous Buddhist ceremonies are held. It is the time of year when all families come together.


There are so many ceremonies and rites that I can’t remember them all. I leave it to my wife to be my scheduler and even then, I’ll opt out of them if I feel I’v gone to too many in too short a period of time. I’m careful not to get “templed-out,” something to which my wife will never be afflicted by.


My strategy in dealing with Songkran is basically to keep off the roads as much as possible and stay away from public places or gatherings of people celebrating -- Attendance at wat ceremonies not necessarily included in my personal travel ban. Riding even on back roads, you might be weigh laid by groups of kids throwing water on vehicles -- and especially effective -- riders on motorcycles. They might even ask you to stop so that they can apply baby powder to your face and chest. As for staying away from groups of people and -- to a further extreme -- dropping out of sight, well, some people get absolutely drunk they’re not much fun to be around.


So, if you’re looking for me around the Southeast Asian Buddhist New Year, you’re gonna hafta do some detective work.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Buffy"

The last in a series of writings that my wife did when she was studying English in Santa Barbara, California, during the first half of the new millennium:



Buffy
By Thiphawan Gault-Williams


Buffy was my dog's name. She was born in 1996 and she was an American Eskimo. She had a litter of puppies in 1998, while staying in the Santa Barbara Humane Society in Goleta.

In June 1998 Buffy joined my husband's family until I came to the USA in 2000. She and I became fast friends and she was my first new friend in the USA. She would become my best friend. In fact, more than anyone Buffy spent most of her life with me.



Buffy liked to eat watermelon and I sometimes feed her with food. For example, I fed her barbecued beef and chicken soup. I mixed food or soup with her food. She was so happy on that day and ate more than what she was [used to]. Buffy liked to follow me when I moved around the house. When I was in the kitchen I usually dropped food on the floor for her.

Buffy was always the first to greet people when they visited. She was always happy to see people and always wanted people's attention. When she was happy or excited she always moved her tail around, up and down, or side to side. She made a little noise, "E e" to let people know that she was happy to see them and needed some attention.

When I came back home and opened the door Buffy was always waiting for me and would run around me like she was happy to see me. If I didn't give attention to her, she always made some noise like "E e" to let me know she was around me and needed attention from me too.


Malcolm's son Senyo showing Buffy lots of attention, 
with cousin Barry and Joyce along.


Buffy loved to run the length of the parking lot of my condominium. My husband Malcolm had to take this out of her routine in the last years of her life because she could not see well. She was beginning to run into things and could have easily clipped the side of a building going at high speed!

She really made me laugh for all the little things that she would do that were just so innocent. If she knew I was mad at her she would look away from me and then after a while she would start to look at me again. If I said, "No", or continued in the same tone of voice, she would look away again.

Buffy was so sweet and sensitive. When I was sick she would sit by me as if to take care of me. Sometimes she would lick my hands and stay near me.




A couple of months before she passed away she always kept walking and walking like she was meditating. She did exactly the same thing that I did when I would do walking meditation. She kept walking day and night and when she fell down she just slept. When she had energy then she got up and started walking again. I had never seen an animal walk like that before in my life, just my dog did that.

I was so proud of her, no matter whether she understood when I listened to the monks on CD or no matter is she knew about meditation or not. I still hope her life will go to heaven.


On October 26, 2009 it was the last day of her life. I hadn't said goodbye to her on that day and I knew she was sick and had a little pain in her leg. She couldn't get up and stand up straight. I went to school in the morning and I didn't know that was the last morning for her. When I came back from school in the afternoon she had already passed away. Only my husband Malcolm was with her and had said good-bye to her without me. It was hard for me to let her go with no returns.


I just thank you Buffy for making my life so much richer. We'll always remember you and love you! Thank you, my best friend.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"My Life in the USA"

My Life in the USA

By Thiphawan Gault-Williams
Written in 2010


I began my new life to be a housewife at first.  After my husband went to work I stayed home with our dog Buffy.  At first I had only one Thai girlfriend.  Her name was Tana.  Tana and I like to cook and we like to eat and talk.


In the fall of 2001 I was a housewife and student.  I went to study ESL classes at the Eastside Library from Monday through Friday.  On Saturday I went to the Farmer's Market in downtown Santa Barbara.  I studied for a couple of months before the weather got cold.  I went to visit my family in Thailand for the first time since I came here in the year 2000.


In the summer of 2002 I went to study at Santa Barbara City College.  I took ESL classes and I began with writing level one, reading level one, and grammar level two.  It was so exciting for me, no matter the classes were a little hard for me.  I still liked to study and be back in school again after my 6th grade in Thailand.


I studied very hard and spent my free time on lab hours.  I had to study more at home because I always picked teachers who love to teach more than talk to wait their times.  I always look forward to having a good grade and I did very well on every class I took.  During my school term I always enjoyed my bike ride to school at the East Beach.


After I had studied up to level five my grade was dropped down.  I had to drop basic math two weeks after fall 2004 began.  My level five writing was A+ but my reading was a D, including homework and the final test.  I was so upset and stopped studying.  I started look for jobs.

After fall 2002 besides being a housewife and student, I started working for myself.  After school hours sometimes I did Thai traditional massage.  I like to do Thai massage because I can help people who are tired to relax. Not just Thai traditional massage but sometimes I did foot massage with a wooden sticks and oil.

In the school term my health was not good.  I had different problems like migraines, stomach aches, acid reflux, and heartburn.

After I had lived in Santa Barbara for a couple of years I had more Thai friends.  Sometimes I invited my friend to come to my house.  We would cook Thai food and enjoy it together.  I sometimes went to my friend's house on Christmas for the parties.


During my school break in summer time I went to visit my family in Thailand.  I went almost every year until my daughter came from Thailand to live with us.  In the summer 2005 my daughter came to stay with us.  I was a housewife, a mother, and a working woman, but I still wanted to study, no matter I couldn't.  During this period I worked at three jobs.  I worked at a grocery store named Scholari's.  I stood next to the cashier bagging groceries for the customers.  My second job was working at a restaurant.  I was a runner, giving food to the customers.  I would sometimes help the waitress refill the water glasses and clean the table.  My last job was during the supermarket and the restaurant.  It was Thai massage and food massage with wooden sticks and oil.


Sometimes my husband took my daughter and me camping.  We went to Mutau  Flat above Ojai.  Another place we went was Anza Borrego desert inland from San Diego.  I like to camp a lot. When we went camping I liked to barbecue chicken, shrimp, and squid.


In the fall of 2009 I went to take a class at Santa Barbara City College Adult Education at the Scott Center.  I went to prepare for the GED but the class was so hard for me because my English was not good.

In the winter of 2010 I changed my mind about the way to prepare for my GED.  I got the brochure from Adult Education room 16 on how to get help from a tutor.  The program had been going on for a long time at the Santa Barbara Library and around town.  I called up Beverly Schwartzberg, a person who organizes the program.  It took her a couple of weeks before she found one of the teachers to help me for reading, writing, and grammar to prepare for my GED.  Her name is Gwen and she has been helpful for me.  I love to study with her a lot.  The program is free.  No matter I can take the GED test or not because of my English.  I still like to learn more English no matter what.  I really thank the people who run the program.  It is helpful for me to learn more English and prepare for my GED.


I have lived in Santa Barbara for ten years now, from the year 2000 until now, the year 2010.  My daughter lived with us for five years and now she has moved back to Thailand to go to college there.  I miss her and look forward to visiting her in November 2010.

Another sad thing for our family was when my dog Buffy died last fall on October 26, 2009.



Many things good or sad happen to me but I still have my husband who loves me so much and my family and my friends who stay beside me.