Monday, October 2, 2017

Ghosts

When I think of Thai ghosts, firstly, I am reminded of the people who plaster their faces with talcum powder during the New Year. Secondly, I think of the young girls usually in high school or college or older who religiously apply whitening cream to their skin -- not only ruining the natural sheen of their skin, but causing a distortion to their overall beauty.

You can't talk them out of it. The appeal of white skin to Southeast Asians has a long history. It goes back to the time when the white skinned Chinese dominated commerce in this part of the world. The Chinese themselves are hung up on white skin and this was passed down to the locals. In order to be beautiful (read: successful), one must be white. So, everyone wants to be successful like the Chinese. This is another reason why Westerners are looked up to: the color of their skin; as if it were confirmation of perceived Falang success.

Girls, especially, think they will look more beautiful with white skin. Unfortunately, due to the “wonders of modern science,” it is now chemically possible to achieve the color, if not the beauty.

But, the subject of ghosts in Southeast Asia is a serious matter. I’m not talking about Songkran partiers or young girls and whitening cream. I mean: the ghosts of living beings long dead. In this part of the world, mysticism is ever present and it is not a long jump between mysticism to superstitions. Everyone here believes ghosts exist and are active. When my wife touches on the subject, I am careful to be attentive. Should I dismiss the subject in an off handed way, I would just be showing my ignorance and my credibility would be diminished. So, I pay a certain kind of lip service to the subject of ghosts.

To be sure, ghosts are a problem. But, it is the fear of ghosts, really, that cause the problems. One case in point occurred recently. Thip was regularly riding our farm road back and forth to the temple for evening chanting. That was until her niece started talking about all the ghosts in this area (as if she knew). Thip hasn't been on our dirt road at night since.

Spirit houses used to be prevalent in our area of the Isaan, almost as much as home Buddha altars. A Thai spirit house is “the house of the guardian spirit.” They are found not only in Thailand, but also in Lao, Cambodia and Mynmar. They are placed in an auspicious spot, most often in a corner of a property. The house itself is in miniature in the form of a house but most often a temple. It’s mounted on a pillar or dais. It’s main intention is to provide a shelter for spirits who could cause problems for the people residing at that location, unless otherwise appeased (by food offerings, chanting, prayers, burning incense, etc.). The shrines often include human and animal figurines.


Kamattan Buddhist leaders have discouraged the installation and maintenance of spirit houses in recent years. As an example, when I first met my wife 18 years ago, her family house had a well-maintained spirit house and now they have none. My wife has never asked me if we can put up one, ourselves.

You still see many spirit houses throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia, however. They are especially popular with places of business who want to show they are appeasing the local spirits.

The main Buddhist ceremony connected with ghosts is Boon Khao Sah, where the dead are remembered and their spirits honored. During this time, as if they were living entities themselves, the spirits are allowed to move around and, in fact, encouraged to do so -- as if they’d been caged up for a year.

I can't say that ghosts don't exist. I also can't say they do. Although I've heard many stories of people who have claimed to see them, I never have.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Communication Technology

When I retired to the Thai countryside from California, in 2012, I was an active multi-player gamer. I had friends who I’d never met face-to-face scattered around the world. We would meet up at a set day/time and play together in a virtual environment in real time. First, the game was Call of Duty, then I moved to Battlefield.

I wasn’t sure if I could continue to play “video games” once I was in Thailand, due to the importance of not only download spped, but upload as well. It turns out that it never became a problem. We bought a plan to deliver a cellular signal to the provincial hub and it worked fine. A couple of year later, we upgraded to fiber optic. Can you imagine having a fiber optic connection in a Thai village of 500 people?

Having first the cellular and then the fiber optic connections enabled us to create a wifi hotspot that gives all our Internet-capable devices access. There’s my computer, the Playstation gaming console (also used for movie watching) and both Thip’s and my cellphones. It used to be that we’d get visits from family just so they could use our connection, but that doesn’t happen much, anymore, as more and more people are buying and daily using data plans for their cellphones.


Of course, Thip and I also have data plans for our cellphones, so that when we are not near the wifi, we can also access the Internet -- basically, from anywhere in Thailand. It comes in handy out at the farm. Thip likes to watch YouTube videos -- instructional videos, Buddhist teachings and Chinese historical drama. Me, I use the phone primarily to keep an eye on the weather radar, but at night sometimes I’ll watch a Netflix show or movie. Staying in contact with each other and our friends and family is also an important aspect. Both Thip and I can be on the go, but we’re easily reachable -- as long as we have our cellphones turned on!


The electronic technology has been there for a while, it just took me time to figure it out and how to use it to maximum benefit. Actually, I was a little resistant to heavy use of cellphones having noted how it has negatively affected inter-personal relationships. But, I had to remind myself of my longtime attitude toward television. It’s neither good nor bad. It just depends on how you use it.


(A favorite shot, Spring 2017... look closely and you'll see Thip watering plants and... viewing her cellphone screen!)


Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Bit Like Camping

When my wife and I are out at our 9 rai farm, it’s a bit like camping.


In my experience, there’s three basic ways to camp. One is what I consider pure: where you head out with a pack on your back and hike to a location where you set up a temporary camp. A second type is what my sons and I call “car camping,” where you park in an area or campgrounds and pitch your gear within sight of your transpo. You can even sleep inside it, if there’s room and you’re set-up for that. A third, I guess, is “RV camping,” where you have your own self-contained living unit that you take with you to a campground specially made to accommodate recreational vehicles.

Well, out at the farm, it’s a little like Car Camping. Our campground is the area around Bann Nah (the farm house), all outdoors. Of course, we sleep upstairs in a very nice teak walled bedroom, but otherwise, we’re outside.


Even though she likes being out at the farm, I know this camping aspect wears on Thip a bit -- especially rainy days, some of which if they are too heavy, cause us to retreat to our village house. I’m a lucky guy to have a wife with me on this adventure, who puts up with living so basically and without so many comforts.

The other day we were talking about the many problems people have with each other and the general turmoil that churns all over the world. Thip said we are fortunate to be able to live so simply, in the figurative shadow of our local temple.

As usual, she’s right.



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Lao Trip 16.4 - What Price?

When Mr. Loi dropped me off at Nongsoda -- after our trip to the bar girls bar -- we made arrangements for him to drive me to the border next morning, as soon as immigration opened up (8:00 a.m.) I would need the entire day to make it home late afternoon that day.

After he left, I showered up and then “made my rounds” for one last time, this trip.

I had a beer at the riverside vendors, but no food. I was still full from eating pah merk (squid) at the bar girls bar. I then walked up the riverside road and had another beer at the new “The View,” ending-up at Savan Khaim Khong.

During these three stops, I kept thinking back to that afternoon and the girls I had met. Now, as I watched Thai luktung and pop videos, my thoughts turned to a person’s price.

I wouldn’t go so far as to declare that “everyman has his price,” but I’m pretty sure most of us do. For the Lao sao I had met, they’re price is low probably due to their family situations. Most bar girls I have met sell themselves to make money for their families, their offspring and themselves lastly.

Now, there are bar girls who make a career of prostitution and, in Thailand, they’re pretty easy to spot because they’re very attractive, well made up, well dressed and -- increasingly these days -- sport tatoos. For these girls, they enjoy the lifestyle and the comparatively high income garnered by easy work.

In between professional bar girls and the ones who will be in the occupation for a much shorter time, are the college girls who attract “sponsors.” They show them a good time while they’re going to school but usually dump them once graduated.

  
But, back to the average bar girl: she’s just a regular attractive girl who lacks other skills that would earn her the same level of financial return. She’ll probably stay with the job until she meets a guy who has enough money to take her away and marry her, or until her attractiveness wains. Then, she’ll most likely go back to her village, often with children and a Lao husband.

Now, about price... what about me? What is my price? After all, I probably could have afforded to have any one of the girls I met today or had them all. But, I declined. Sure, I wrote about taking the High Road and that is admirable, but just how honest am I being?

While I drank Beer Lao, I mused about Nuey. What if she had been in the line-up? Or, another girl who was just so attractive to me that I couldn’t resist? I mean, could I have resisted?

Before I left my favorite Savan bar/restaurant/karaoke place, I asked my waitress if I could take a picture of her and she agreed. I forget her name, but I remember her well. Several years back, her family had her working in the kitchen and would not allow her on the floor. During her breaks, she would stand in the kitchen doorway, looking out on the scene of people eating, drinking, talking, laughing and having fun.

Well, she’s grown a little older -- I’d guess she’s around 17 now -- and the family lets her wait tables. It was my good fortune, this trip, that she waited on mine.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lao Trip 16.3 - Bar Girls

The way they do visas at the Thai consulate in Savannakhet is they take the applications in the morning and then you go back with a number to pick yours up the following afternoon.

So, I basically laid around at Nongsoda in the morning of this third day of the trip, catching up on Internet communications and news. The day’s slow start would prove deceiving.


Mr. Loi picked me up at 1pm and dropped me off at the Thai consulate a bit early. I had to stand around and wait for the doors to open at 2pm. Luckily, I was in the shade. Usually talkative Westerners also in the line were kind of quiet today, possibly because of the heat.

After I received my one year, multiple entry Thai “O” (Other) Visa based on marriage, things started to liven up.

I mean, it was inevitable, really. Tuk-tuk drivers know where everything is. I remember Pak Lai samlor driver Lu offering to take me to “see beautiful girl.” Somehow I got out of that one, but this time, Mr. Loi didn’t bother to ask and even when we arrived and I lightly resisted, he was determined to show me a good time.

I learned several years back that it’s just best to “go with the flow” in Southeast Asia -- in most cases. You definitely do not want to dampen a friend’s good intentions. So, that’s how I found myself at my first-ever Lao bar girl bar on the outskirts of Savannakhet. Actually, we never made it into the physical structure. Pretty girls were hanging outside at a cement table, under the shade of a tree near the gate.

It was fun and I had a good time, but I had to learn quickly as time went on. The young guy who ran the place kept asking me “who?” I just sloughed it off each time, laughing. He knew I knew what he was talking about and, of course, the girls did, too. I just pretended that I didn’t quite know what he meant.

The four girls were attractive, ranging in age (I guess) from 16 to 26. The youngest one (I’m guessing again) was probably just “in training.”

The night I had spent with Jittzy, back in 2015, taught me that I no longer have my plumbing “up to code” nor the emotional wherewithal to deal with sleeping or having sex with another woman other than my wife. It’s an age thing, but it’s also a loyalty thing.

Irrespective of all this, I generously paid for lunch and beers for the seven of us and enjoyed myself a lot; this despite my friend and newfound friends knowing very, very little English. It was a challenge for me and I just wish that I had packed my translation gear (book and phrasebook). Although smart phones are the best way to go, I had not purchased a data plan after I crossed the border, so my cellphone was of little use in this setting -- at least for translation purposes.

In an attempt to keep things from getting out-of-control, I did use my phone to show the girls pictures of Bann Nah and my wife. Here was another plus for phones that have evolved into mini-computers. Nevertheless, the girls were undeterred and I could have had any one of them, including the girl I estimated at 16. Do the math. That’s about a quarter of my age. Can you imagine?


I kept to the High Road, not letting my eyes linger on any one girl too long. Eventually, Mr. Loi and I left. I let the girls know I’d be back -- gap ma -- but neglected to add that it probably wouldn’t be until next year.

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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"My Jobs"



My Jobs
by Thiphawan Gault-Williams


My first job was hemming jeans. I was thirteen years old at that time and I worked in Bangkok, Thailand. I had to be careful hemming the jeans because the machine had a knife to cut the fabric. If I was not careful it would cut my finger more than the fabric. I could make $10 a day if I could hem around 1,000 jeans. Hemming the jeans was not too difficult and not too easy either. The hard thing was carrying one hundred pieces each time from downstairs to upstairs. It was too heavy for a little girl like me. I worked six days a week, but sometimes I didn't have any day off or sleep because I had to finish my work before they could pack the jeans and send them to the boat. All the jeans that we made were sold outside the country to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Now when I think back to that time I am very proud of myself hemming the jeans no matter what. It was not too safe because there was so much dust and the way a knife cut the fabric. I am still proud of myself because some of the money I made was sent back to support my family.


My second job was working at a restaurant at a hotel. It was a Chinese restaurant and I was a waitress. I had to serve food and take care of customers and I had to encourage the customers to order the food we had to sell out on that day before the food would go bad. For example, if that day the restaurant had too much pork barbecue we told the customers, "The pork barbecue is so good, tasty, and fresh," no matter that it was not that way. We served pork barbecue with sweet chili sauce, cucumber, and onions.

I tried to do the best I could to take care of the customers because the better service I did, the more tip I could get. It wasn't just how much of a tip I could get from the customers, I still wanted to take care of the customers by giving them good service and being happy. We wanted them to come back again soon.

My work at the hotel was challenging for me every day. For example, I'm the kind of person who always wakes up late. For the hotel job my morning started at 7 a.m. and went until 10 or 11 p.m. In the morning after I woke up I took a shower to prepare myself for work. I ran to the bus stop and then kept waiting and waiting. I had no idea when the bus would come. Sometimes it took me an hour waiting for the bus. I sometimes had to take a cab, not matter cab or bus I still had to get out and run or walk to work because the traffic in Bangkok was so bad. Running and walking was faster for me in the morning before work. Another challenge for me was when a customer complained about the food. They might say the food tastes too salt or too sweet and was not good. I had to take the food back to the chef and deal with him in the kitchen. Sometimes the chef did not do anything to the food. He would just say, "I tested it already. It still tastes good. The customer is just wrong." I had no idea what to do. I waited a while and then brought the food back to the customer, smiling. I said, "We are so sorry. The food is OK now." They smiled and ate it. The chef didn't change anything in the food but the customer still smiled and said, "The food was good." I sometimes wondered what happened in their minds.


[When I moved to the United States] My third, fourth, and fifth job was working at the supermarket, doing Thai massage, and being a runner at Your Place restaurant. I worked at Scolari's supermarket [in Santa Barbara]. I started work at 6 a.m. and went to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. My job was to stand next to the cashier and bag the groceries. I bagged groceries for six months and then I got promoted to the non-food department. The job I worked was staking. For example, I stocked medicine, decorations, and shampoo. I got paid $6.35 per hour.

After I got off from the supermarket I went back home, had a rest, and then did another job. I did Thai traditional massage and Thai foot massage. In this job I was the boss of myself. Many of my clients who came to me always complained about their bodies. They were tired, sore, and achy. I was so happy that I knew how to do massage because I like to help people and see them happy after my massage. For example, one of my clients was 65 years old. I did foot massage on her. I usually used oil and wood to do massage. I would rub and put pressure on the skin. After I finished my work, my client always said, "I feel like I have new feet." Not just my client said that to me, but my husband said the same, "I feel like I have new feet." I made more money doing massage than working at the supermarket. I charged the customers $60 an hour for massage. I didn't just help people with their bodies, but I made money too!

Around 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. my other job started. After my dinner I started working at the Thai restaurant at 6 p.m. My job was to be a runner. For example, I bought food to the customers, refilled water glasses, and cleaned the tables. This job paid $14 an hour. This job was easy for me because I was not a waitress and I didn't have to deal with the customers. When the customers complained about something I always sent a waitress over to the table to deal with them. After I finished my job I rode my bike back home and that was the end of my day of work. I would start my jobs again the next day.


I like every job I have had, no matter that sometimes I had to deal with difficult people. I like to do different things to learn more about something and to have more experience. I was so happy to be working, no matter that sometimes the job was hard for me. I am proud of myself for every job I have done. I sent some of the money I made back to support my family in my hometown in northeast Thailand.

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.