Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Daily Life - Mornings 2

After sai baht (sai baht is when you tak baht and the monks binta baht), Thip is busy preparing food to take with her for the monks for jahn hahn. I used to go to the temple every morning, but several things are going on that have caused me to change this cycle.

First and foremost is the heat in the afternoons, coupled with my need for regular and sizeable computer time. I need a good three hours daily for my writing, video projects, information gathering and staying in contact with loved ones. Additionally, I have recently gotten back into multiplayer gaming and the game console (Playstation 3) heats up as much, if not more, than my laptop. Back when I was going to the temple every morning, it would already be so hot outside by the time I got back home, that I could only access my computer for an hour at most without the risk of overheating. Of course, it’s no longer the hot or rainy season, but the same rules apply -- literally -- to lesser degree.

Thip says we need air conditioning. What does she know? Hah! Yes, she’s right, of course; at least air conditioning in one room that has a ceiling. We’ll get there; maybe next year.

Another thing is… I was not enjoying the banter the village women would get into when eating, after the jahn hahn ceremony. Not that I could understand what they were saying exactly, but, you know, you can pick up on a vibe without having to know the verbage. Thip explained that they just like to talk about other people and she doesn’t enjoy it either. I can imagine what they have to say about us when we’re not around (you DO know we are a favorite topic of conversation in the village, don’t you?). Anyway, what I do in situations that make me feel uncomfortable is just to remove myself.

Back in the Monsoon Season, on rainy days, I ended up going to jahn hahn anyway because my tuk-tuk has a roof and Thip’s “motosai” (motorcycle – Honda 110i, red) does not. Because rainy days are cooler, I could still get in some decent computer time when I got back home. Now that it is the cool season (November-January), I can work on the computer all morning long, no problem.

The third and final reason for cutting back on jahn hahn and Buddhist ceremonies in general, is that I’m undergoing somewhat of a religious transformation. It was prompted by my writing about my “stripped-down Buddhism” and later realizing that although these guidelines and beliefs have served me well over the past decades, my spiritual code has transformed into something a little different, while still retaining some elements of the old. I’ll hafta write about this at a later date to fully explain myself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Daily Life - Mornings 1

I am often struck by the differences of my life in the Isaan (“Retired Writer”) compared to the lives I’ve lived in the United States (lifeguard, disc jockey, park ranger, radio station manager, student advisor, radio engineer, freelance writer, cataloger, surfer). I want to share these “Random Thoughts on Daily Life” with you in no particular order, although I’ll try to write chronologically, from beginning of day to end. In a way, this is a follow-up to posts that I’ve written about my morningsafternoons, evenings and what constitutes an average day, more or less. Family is particularly interested in this stuff, so the rest of you please bear with me and my details.

I am still a late sleeper by village standards. The cocks need to have been crowing for at least an hour before I even think about getting up. My wife is usually up before me, preparing sticky rice (khao nio) for sai baht and the rest of the day; in addition to doing hand laundry which I later hang up. She wakes me by 5:15am, knowing it’ll take me another half hour to raise my bod off the floor mats. In my defense, I must say I’ve taken to doing a little bit of yoga before rising, to stretch particularly my back, leg and hip muscles. Most mornings I miss my good friend Pahwet or his wife herding their seven cows out to pasture. I hope to eventually get going in the mornings a little sooner to at least wave greetings.

It’s not like I can’t do it. I remember one of my most productive periods writing about the history of surfing (LEGENDARY SURFERS). I used to get up at 4am and loved it. Ground my own coffee Italian style; no one awake to interrupt me and so quiet. Ah, no roosters back then in Santa Barbara – at least none that I heard.

I finally have my morning ab-nam (shower) down to a fine art and get it and my shaving out of the way in enough time to sai baht (tak baht). Of course, I still check my corners and shake out my towel before every use.

One of the reasons I don’t get up before the sun is that the nyoong (mosquitoes) don’t leave the house until our star shines on the house. BTW, I have a new weapon in my counter-attack against the nyoong. I don’t know what they call it in Thai, but it’s like an electric tennis racket, battery powered. I use it to clear inside the mosquito net when going to bed and in the bathroom in the evenings, night time and early mornings – zap! ZAP! Occasionally, I’ll take it with me when I sit outside at night drinking a beer or two. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re still in the morning, right?

Thip now fixes me iced coffee, as I’m usually already in a light sweat by 6:15am, despite it not being the hot season anymore and I just took a shower (buckets of water over the head have been replaced by a real shower with hot water, even! My Wife assures me it’s cold overnights and in the morning. Yes, I have to agree. I used to sleep with only my briefs on and nothing over me. Now I cuddle closer and sometimes borrow parts of her comforter…

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012


After a half year of having our bicycles be our major source of transpo, we’ve added two others. The first is a samlaw (aka tuk-tuk). Wikipedia calls them motorized rickshaws and I guess that’s about the best two-word description. Our other addition is a motorcycle for Thip, but let me tell you about my tuk-tuk, first.

The samlaw is, in my opinion, the best all-purpose vehicle for the Thai countryside. Of course, all Thai’s will tell you a truck is better, but then you have to deal with the payments and maintenance. I bought our tuk-tuk (samlaw) for about $400 USD and had it fixed up for an additional $100 USD. So, for about $500 USD, I have a vehicle that I can drive on the country roads (and even on the shoulder of the highways, though I shy away from that as much as I can), that can transport stuff and people, and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance or gas (benzin).

OK, so I never go over about 20 Km/hour and it’s funky, but I’m not in a hurry and I don’t care what people think about me all that much. Our villagers are sure that I should be driving a new 4WD truck… Been there, done that. No need to do again… Ah, no money to do again!

Initially, I got psyched out of riding my tuk-tuk cuz I had problems reaching the motorcycle gears with my left foot and the roof was too low. These vehicles are made, after all, for Asians, not Falangs. The vehicle sat in our front yard for a couple of months gathering village gossip as I debated what to do. Finally, I decided to learn how to drive it despite its small size and make my own compromises to get it done. This mostly amounts to me having to almost stand-up to shift gears... but I’ve learned how to do it and now do it well.

I think I am the only Westerner who drives a samlaw in our area of the province. Haven’t seen any falang in Nong Bua driving one, that’s for sure. In contrast, in the province of Udon Thani, quite a number of falang have tuk-tuk’s and even customize them to be top-of-the-line.

Now, on to the better vehicle: Thip’s Honda Wave 110i

It’s brand new and, really, THEE perfect vehicle for country roads if you don't want to transport much. Of course, Thai’s will tell you a 4WD truck is much better, but… You Know…

I believe this is Thip’s first owned vehicle in Thailand and second in her entire life. Her first vehicle was Taz’s surf wagon, back in Santa Barbara, which she bought with her own money.

It took her a while to learn to drive and operate the motosai, even though she’s ridden motorcycles many times before. The weight of the Honda is what throws her off, but in my mind, that just points to its sturdiness. I love to ride it on the back country roads, on occasion, and Thip, of course, is stoked. She still lets me know she wants a car, but really, the motosai fits her needs far better.

I don’t think we’ll get a car or truck, much to the disappointment of our village. I have the samlaw, Thip’s got her motosai and when we need to go on long range trips, we take songthaws and buses. They’re cheap, reliable and social!