Around Mahasarakham: The Saengcharoen Theater (4711 Theater)

Across the street from our friend Tong’s house and cram school is a massive old theatre that’s been converted into a church. I’ve never taken photos of it or been inside, but I’ve admired it from the outside and parked in its shade many times.
I stumbled upon an excellent write up of the church (posted just two days ago) by a blog called The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, which is a “photographic archive of derelict or converted movie theaters in Southeast Asia.” Reading it makes me yearn for the days when many blogs were works of passion written about specific subjects…
I think I’ll ask Tong’s father about the significance of the number 4711, although I dig the idea of the Hopeful worshiping in the house of the occult.

Saving you from yourself

A student scores a D on a final exam.
The teacher takes pity and bumps her to a C.
The student insists she deserves better and demands a retest.
The teacher points out the actual grade was a D.
The student is insistent and wants to retest in two days.
The teacher agrees with the condition that the retest will be final and scored from zero.
The student agrees, thanks the teacher for another chance, and promises to study hard.
Two days hence, the teacher comes into work early to accommodate the student’s work schedule. He explains, again, that the retest will be scored anew and that the new grade will be final. He asks if the student is ready.
The student replies she is ready to take the test and has studied hard for it.
The teacher asks for the last time if the student is sure she wants to throw away the C and accept a new grade.
The student replies she is sure.
The teacher retests the student.
The student obviously hasn’t studied for the retest. She bombs the test, scoring an F.
The teacher feels pity and bumps her to a D.
The student gets angry, storms out of the room, and asks with tears in her eyes, “so you’re really going to give me a D?”
There are bad teachers, there are bad students, and there are bad situations… What’s your excuse?

Bad juju days

The past 48 hours have been so trying, it would be easier to just forget about them. It is for that very reason that I now attempt to document them.
Two nights ago, I fell asleep with a high fever and covered up with a heavy blanket when the chills started an hour later. I woke up a couple hours later hearing my wife’s voice telling me to do something, but I was drenched in my own sweat and feverish again. I somehow sensed there was a blackout, because the room was completely dark – no flashing LEDs from electronics or nightlights for the babies could be seen.
I kicked off the sweaty blanket and found my glasses by touch, then went to one of my flashlight stashes. None of the fuses were tripped in the fusebox and there was no power running to it. A quick check outside showed that the streetlights were still on and the house next door still had power. As both babies don’t sleep well in the heat (it’s 80° to 90° at night now), Nam called her sister to come pick up Max and take him to sleep at his grandparent’s house and we got ready to take Mina to a hotel if we had to. We then called the power company and they promised to send out a truck to investigate.
I examined our power meter outside and realized I was so feverish, it felt really cool even in the heat. I took deep breaths, popped some tylenol, and wondered why this shit was all happening at once. Little did I know it was just beginning.
The power company came quickly, and checked all the lines in the neighborhood with a spotlight mounted on their orange ten ton (with a cherry picker). They eventually found a blown fuse that connected our house and several others, and replaced it. There was probably no power for around 90 minutes, and in that time, many people left in their cars, probably thinking the power would be out all night and unwilling to spend the night without AC. As the power came back on, Nam’s mom and sister showed up to pick up Max, but he still seemed sleepy so we just let him be. With the aircon back on, we all got back to sleep again eventually.
The next day, I decided to take my Crown in to a different garage than I usually visit to try and solve recurring engine problems. We dropped it off at a place just down the street from our tract and came back home, where I dropped into a feverish stupor again.
The nanny had to go to a funeral, so I had to stay at home with the Mina while Max went to nursery school and mommy went to work for a meeting around lunch. She went to go look for shoes at Big C Plaza (just down the street from our house) on the way and crashed into the back of a pickup exiting the parking lot. Luckily, no one was hurt. Luckily, our insurance is going to pay for our car’s damage even though this year we downgraded from “first class” insurance to “fifth class” insurance which is a newly-created derivative of “third class” insurance that provides “third class plus” coverage at less than half the price of first class insurance. But still, I love my cars, so let me say this just once:
Luckily, the damage is minimal and the hit was above the airbag sensors. Once I unloaded everything from the Cefiro, we took it to a garage the insurer would let us use (and that we’ve used before).
Nam drove the Cefiro, and I took Max in the Crown, which we picked up at the garage…The mechanic couldn’t find anything really wrong during the short time he had the Kujira, but had some interesting things to say about my recurring green spark plugs. He reckons they were being caused by radiator fluid. The steel cap on the radiator’s reserve tank is the spring-loaded type, but the spring subassembly and rubber gasket must have fallen off years ago, so the cap just sits on the tank loosely… When the radiator boils, fluid erupts from the gap between cap and tank and gets into the plugs. That’s what he reckons, anyway. I admit, it’s a good theory and I’d love for this to have been the cause because if so, I’ve already fixed it by purchasing a new cap. But I have my doubts, because when I first started having this problem, the plugs were doubly protected against moisture by the plug cups, which are held flush to the engine block with four screws each, plus a long cover screwed down on top of that (which I recently modified by cutting short to leave the first five plug cups exposed in an effort to dissipate heat and improve accessibility since I was pulling plugs so often).
Plug problems aside, I noticed that the Crown was still seriously losing power at gear changes. Having ruled out plugs as the cause of this semi-recent problem, I vowed to get to the bottom of it since the Crown had just become our primary form of transportation by default. For the record, I suspected a fuel filter/sock or since it’s a Nissan engine, a sensor problem. I debated all night whether to take it to the Nissan dealer to hook it up to a computer, or back to the garage again. Fate decided for me.
This morning, my fever and headache were finally gone.
Max didn’t want to get in the car seat but our neighbors kindly distracted him by showing off their litter of eight half-Rot puppies. We got within a kilometer of his school and were pulling out of the old Maha Sarakham University campus when the Crown started losing power and I was forced to reverse back down an incline to park on the side of the road just as the engine completely stopped. It wouldn’t start again and it sounded like I had run out of gas. However, I had put in seven liters from a jerrycan the night before, so I knew this was not the case.
A security guard at the gatehouse helped me push the car into the shade, because it was already getting super hot out. Max, having woken up early and cried pretty hard, was sleeping and sweating profusely. My shirt was soaked, too. The guard brought over a faded traffic cone and plopped it in the street behind my car. I pulled Max from his child seat and as he slept on my shoulder, I called Nam, who was getting a ride from a colleague to work. They came to where we were and called a tow truck from the garage. At that point, I tried one last time and the engine roared back to life. We called to cancel the tow, Nam and her friend took Max to school, and I headed for the garage. On the way, I decided I would go home first to unload all of the tools (tons of them) from my car first, so took a turn that led me back onto the university campus, but on a different route than the one I’d just been on, which is where my car died again.
I called Nam again. I drenched my shirt again. I stood cursing under the sun again. I tried to push my car into shade again but it was uphill, so I gave up and contented myself by just pushing it off the road, in front of a student dormitory entrance. Nam and her friend came again. I found a tow point under the back of her Toyota Fortuner SUV and asked if she wouldn’t mind towing me to the garage. She said she hadn’t done it before, and I told just to drive very slow. I pulled the steel tow cable from my trunk and tried starting my car one last time again. The engine roared back to life again. I headed for the garage again, and got there this time. I left the car with the mechanic, tools and all, and told him what had happened. He told me he thought it was the fuel pump. I said I thought it was a fuel filter.
Nam and her friend were late for work and my university was in the opposite direction, so they took off and I waited for a yellow songtaew (public transportation; a pickup truck with two covered benches on the back) to come by. I got bored waiting for one to come, so I started walking down the highway in the direction of the university. It was already about 95° outside, and the sun was beating down on me. My shirt now just felt like paste covering my body. I waited and waited for a songtaew to come… Along this particular stretch of highway, called the bypass, there is no sizable shade to be seen in either direction. Home was only ten minutes walk away. I started to think that I should go home and get my scooter to go to work… But then I remembered the rear tire was flat and that two bicycle pumps in a row had failed and were unusable. The thought of this – how all things transportation-related were fucking me this very day – made me insanely angry in the hot hot sun, and I realized I was close to having a meltdown. At that moment, a yellow songtaew appeared at the intersection I had walked from, and I waved it down.
After work, we went to pick up the Crown and the mechanic said he couldn’t find any real problems except that it was low on gas, and the fuel filter was kinda blocked with something. He wouldn’t accept payment, except for the gas he put in. I told him I’d drive around and check it out.
Today, at least, the Crown felt normal again, which is great. The trick is going to be keeping her dependably normal.

Around Mahasarakham: The Cowboy Barber

Today Max turned two and when he fell asleep in the car, we took him to a barber on Srisawat Road famous for dressing like a cowboy (and cutting with shears instead of clippers). Nam held Max on her shoulder as cowboy barber man snipped away. Meanwhile, I was busy inspecting his shop, an older two story townhouse decorated with photos of him posing with other cowboy enthusiThais, Marlboro man swag like ashtrays and posters, a decommissioned muzzleloader, and a photo of Tom Selleck in cowboy attire!
This last detail ensures that daddy will also be going back for a cut there sometime, with camera.

Songkran 2010

Although I went to work on Friday, most people here have the whole week off to celebrate Thai New Year – I’m probably the only blogger in Thailand not posting photos of water fights and drunken merriment, but that’s only because I have a two kids who love playing with water every single day, so it’s not that special… And since I’m in no particular hurry to see people get hurt in horrible traffic accidents in the name of water fight shits and giggles,we mostly stay at home. Bah, humbug.
Something exciting did happen last weekend, though. Our booming housing development’s manager called us up to let us know she was having a good masseuse come through, so we asked if he could stop by our place. In short – he’s the best we’ve ever experienced, any place, any price. He’s more of an acupressure specialist than a masseuse, but he works magic. He has one of the few claims to fame as a masseuse that means something in my mind – he was recognized for his skills by Thaksin (regardless of what you think of the man or the politician, it’s pretty much given that Mr. T could hire any masseuse in the world so the fact that he chose this guy means something). This guy, seriously, is at least the very best in this province, and we’ve been to the majority of them here, including three different blind parlors/schools (I was convinced for the longest time that blind masseuses weer the best). He diagnosed some preexisting conditions that Nam, Max, and I had just by touching our arms, and he had a very unique style, using arms as localizers and working mostly on the legs. He mostly used his elbows. His massage did not really hurt at all, except when working on high tension points, but the final effect was complete and total relaxation and an enervating high. We are keen on trying it again, if for no other reason than to make sure he really is as good as we think he is.
Trying to put two little kids to sleep is like playing whack-a-mole, except that you can’t whack them. It’s amazing how they can set each other off crying so you end up with a symphony of tears that makes you want to tear your ears off.