Thursday, February 21, 2013

Buddha Altars

Every Thai Buddhist home has one, each one different.

Here’s the one we had in Santa Barbara:

Here’s ours now:

I guess the change from the fancy to the more basic graphically shows the difference between life in Santa Barbara, California and The Isaan, Thailand. The small Buddha statues we have here in our home in the village, however, are more important to Thip and some are family heirlooms.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daily Life - Afternoon / Evening

My active day is more or less over by 4 p.m. Sometimes I’ll water the mak pow (coconut), mango, papaya and jack fruit trees in the backyard up to about 5:30 or do some weeding, but most of the time I slow it down around 4 p.m.

(I wrote more, later on this year, about our afternoons in 2013, at: "Afternoons Revisited".)

4:30 p.m. is what I call “Beer Thirty” and the beverage of choice is Beer Chang (not Chang beer) on ice in a glass, drunk in the Thai and Lao manner. The popular Isaan brew is Leo, brewed and bottled by Singha, but I prefer the slightly stronger (6.4% alcohol) Chang. I try to keep Leo’s in the bottom refrigerator tray for guests.

Beer Thirty is also dinner time. I found out years ago, back in Santa Barbara, that Thip’s and my digestion and weight control require us to eat our last meal of the day early enough for it to be burned-off prior to sleep, and we tend to go to bed earlier than most people.

We might have a visitor or go out to visit late afternoon or early evening, but it is rare for us to go to bed past 8 p.m.

Our pattern changed for a while when Thip’s brother Pawt and his wife opened up an outdoor restaurant up the road towards the highway. Thip was helping them by waitressing and I helped by patronizing the 6-table operation by buying beer, drinking it and sharing with others in a quasi party scene. The end of the night for us is then about 10 p.m., but it's now back to norm: to bed by 8pm.

(I wrote more about our evenings, later this year, at: "Evenings".)

I always make a point of refilling all water containers and ice cube trays for the next day and watching the sun go down, usually taking in the show from our side yard or the back. Isaan sundowns are not as spectacular as Santa Barbara’s, but they have their own beauty, especially with our coconut trees as silhouettes.

Often times, the Isaan sky is even more beautiful in the afternoons than at sundown, when the blazing sun hits the always numerous clouds. Thip took these:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Isaan Country Roads

Following up on the subject of Isaan country roads, the first song I ever heard in Thailand was John Denver’s “Country Roads.” We were on a short tourist boat trip on the Mekong, just out of Khaeng Khut Khu, in the fall of 1999, and I believe the captain’s choice was just standard for what he played whenever a Falang was on board.

This past year, thinking that I might be forced into some karaoke, I rewrote portions of the song to sing if necessary:

“Isaan Roads”

Almost heaven: pai sa-wan
Noen Soong Pleui
In the Isaan
Thailand sway mahk

Life is old there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Growin’ like the breeze

Thang ban nawk (country roads)
Take me home
To the place
I belong
Noen Soong Pleui
In the Isaan
Take me home
Country Roads

All my memories
They gather round her
Mung klo khao nio (fields of sweet rice)
Under Pu Khao (mountain tops)

Bright and dusty
Painted on the sky
Misty taste of whiskey
Teardrops in my eyes

(chorus repeat)

I hear her voice
In the morning hour she calls me
The radio reminds me
Of my home far away

And driving down the road
I get a feeling:
Koi yak yoo nee leuay (I want to stay here always)
Taw-lawt pai! (forever)

(chorus repeat)

Take me home
Down Country Roads (Than ban-nawk)

Riding along on the Isaan back country roads, I wouldn’t be singing this song. As a matter of fact, this song was disdained at the legendary High Country freeform radio station KFML, where I was fortunate to have a brief time spinning tunes back in 1972.

More likely, I’ll be humming the classic…