Khon Kaen Immigration

So the most heinous task of renewing our non-immigrant Type B working visas and work permits fell on this very day and to my great surprise, was quite painless, if not actually pleasant. Since I’ve been here, the immigration officethe foreingers¬†in Maha Sarakham report to has changed from Nong Khai to Mukdahan to Khon Kaen. The Khon Kaen office started out kind of rough, which is to be expected anywhere, I guess, but they have really improved their operation. What used to take us 2 hours in Khon Kaen (or in the worst case, 10 hours at the Mukdahan office) only took us 45 minutes today, and since we arrived at opening time (8:30am), it meant that we had a chance to try renewing our work permits at the SArakham labor office before lunch.

Arriving at 11:45 meant that the staff was more interested in getting on lunch break than processing our renewals, so instead of the typical treatment (“it’s time to eat, please wait”), they examined only my documents (which were in perfect order) and rubber stamped the rest. And ran to the cafeteria. It was quite awesome, really.

Here’s to the greatly improved efficiency of the Khon Kaen immigration office and the Maha Sarakham labor office – I never would have believed that both visa and work permit renewals could be finished in half a day, but it all went smoothly this year.

Some baby photos

Mina is currently going through the dreaded NO! stage, and Max is off school (a month earlier than Mina) and going to work with mommy or daddy every day. Mina hit me in the face when I said she couldn’t have ice cream, then ran away giggling to mommy when I came after her. Max is perfecting his knee kicks and nailed me in the eggs a couple times this week. The first time it hurt so bad, I bit my lip until it bled. There is something to be said for having babies when you are young and still indestructible. When people ask if we are going to have more children, I want to punch them in the face and run away giggling.

And yet, we are having a great time and value this time spent together more than anything.

Lego Land Mines

One of the worst ways to wake up is by stepping on a lego. Add in the fact that you’re in a rush to reach the room of your crying baby, and it means you are probably in a hurry, and may fall down on the tiled floor before smashing your head into the doorway of the kid’s room.

At least the baby stopped crying long enough to give you a WTF look.

The Gecko Summoner

Mina has some kind of animal hoodoo. The other day she spotted a gecko on the ceiling (she loves watching them on the outside walls of the house but for them to be on the ceiling inside is pretty rare), and she screamed out to it in Thai.




It jumped off the ceiling just as Nam was walking underneath and almost landed on her. Nam is scared of them, so she screamed and ran away. Meanwhile, the gecko just sat there, no doubt shaken from the ten foot fall, but just staring at Mina. Eventually, it ran away to the counter.

Mina is generally unafraid of animals. Maybe she’s magic, too.

Flooding in Sarakham

Today we were hit by a sudden storm that dumped a whole lot of water on us, very quickly. This year’s weather has been very wet and relatively cool for Thailand, and it’s been raining almost every day.

I’ve been very busy for a while now, and everybody in this house started getting sick from last week. First it was Mina, then mommy, and now Max – but daddy is too busy to get sick. Taking care of three sickies is demanding, you know. So I didn’t even notice that the street in front of our house was flooding after about an hour of heavy rain. Nam did, though. I rushed out to make sure the storm drains were clear. They were, but they were running slower than usual. They empty into the pond in front of our house, and it was very high, the highest I’ve ever seen it. Hmmm.

For the time being though, the water in the pond and in the street wasn’t high enough to worry about, so I went to survey the damage behind our neighborhood, which always floods during heavy rains. A truck plowing through the water sent a small fish flying in its wake, and it ended up gasping for air on a non-flooded part of the street. I rescued it and took it back to Max and Mina as part of my One Day Pet Plan. This time it also turned out to be a snakeskin gourami. Shades of Bitty. I returned to my damage survey thinking that there were probably much larger fish in the flood water, and in fact ended up slowly chasing one up the street. A lady saw me and asked what I was doing; I told her I was chasing a snake. She disappeared. By the time I reached the rearmost houses in our tract, I was wading in knee deep water, and some of the houses had very nearly escaped being flooded. The raised driveways are all that saved the houses not built on a high foundation (our house is built on a meter-high foundation laid on a raised plot so there is no real danger of floodwater reaching inside – but it might damage our vehicles if it got really bad). Satisfied that none of our neighbors had been washed away, I returned home to resume cooking dinner (Hainan Chicken ala Kris).

An hour later or so, I needed some Chinese parsley and feverish Max needed some cooling pads, so I got on my bike and got as far as the back exit of my tract, the one that connects to another neighborhood and eventually exits out onto a highway. It was totally flooded out, which was a surprise since the rain had stopped almost two hours before, and the sun was now beating down on us like nothing had happened. There were cars and motorcycles stalled out and abandoned in the deepest parts, and pickups with pumps were trying to help drain the newly-formed lake. The storm drains were just full.

Remembering some elderly teachers we know back there, I decided to try and check on them. I went home to get the car and tell Nam where I was going, then got on the bypass and drove around to the other side of the flooded area. I drove down a side street as close as I could get, then started running into flooded out cars. The flooding in this neighborhood was quite bad. It reminded me of the damage I’d seen years ago after a big typhoon on Awajishima.

I helped an old lady push her scooter to high ground after the engine flooded. I almost got bit by a stranded dog I tried to help, and gave up. I got to the teachers’ house and found them OK. The water had just barely come up to door level, then receded, but their son had parked their new SUV on the street. It started and they moved it in the driveway, but the floorboards were soaked with dirty water. They were angry, but didn’t need any help. I waded back to my car and took some photos with my phone.

The bike and scooters in the foreground were being used as a warning not to go any further - which many people did anyway. The gold SUV is parked in front of a large roundabout; this side was much shallower than the other side (the side our neighborhood is on), where I saw two guys riding a scooter that plowed on faithfully until it reached their hips, stalled, and dumped them both off into a whirlpool of debris.
This truck had been flooded; I looked inside.
This street had the deepest continuous stretch of water.
All of these photos were taken a couple hours after the rain stopped; the water must have gotten inside some of the houses in this neighborhood.