The whole country is flooding from the heavy rains of the past week (a result of Typhoon Noru which had a completely different name in the heavily ravaged Philippines), but we are safe so far. Usually, our neighborhood floods when there’s heavy rains, but the drainage systems just in our immediate area have worked well this time around. There’s supposed to be more opening of floodgates upriver (mainly at the Ubolrat Dam in Khon Kaen) in the coming week, so it may get worse. For now, there are a lot of volunteers filling sandbags in preparation of more rain and rising rivers. My students coworkers haven’t lost their sense of humor, either.
Our beloved cowboy hairstylist has passed from natural causes. He was a local philanthropist, often offering free cuts at pubs along the canal and various festivals in town. I just loved him because he was a hardcore cowboy that popped up here and there quite often.
All four of us have had our hair cut by him many times over the years. He was a real pro, and will be missed.
We had to take our Mazda 2 Elegance (TH only sedan model) into the new dealer down the highway to fix the most annoying vibration in the world (which will require removing the dash so I’m totally not doing it myself). Anyway, someone cut me off on the way home just as this came up on screen in the windblown (windows open because it’s nice) Kujira:
Took some more photos and sold it for half of what I bought it for 8 years ago. It was fun to ride and served me well, and it was also the first vehicle I ever bought new… but I haven’t been able to ride it the past couple of years due to COVID, and the ethanol fuel mandated in Thailand just goes bad very quickly. I ended up having to replace the fuel pump and injector because the fuel had degraded into something nasty. Anyways, we put up an ad yesterday and got several interested parties calling today. A bike dude from Ubon Ratchatani made the drive out and bought it on the spot. I hope it serves him well.
I had replaced the decals with a more colorful set in order to appeal to a younger buyer, and it worked exactly as planned. This sort of strategy seems to work well for us.
My CRF250M originally looked like this:
I originally bought it used in this color and actually had a new one rush made for me in the same color at the Honda factory in Rayong when the old one didn’t work out. I liked this color scheme because it reminded me of my dad’s black 280zx with gold trim from the 80s.
I drove by the other day just to make sure it was still there (it’s a few doors down from my co-worker’s language school). It was pretty much unchanged from the time this drive-by photo was taken in mid-2019. In Thai it’s actually pronounced, “oosak.”
The biggest COVID wave so far spread through Maha Sarakham from a couple months ago, so my university postponed the new term until this week. I’m teaching four Public Speaking classes per week online. This is what a typical class looks like, with about 2/3 the students:
I tell them they only have to turn on the camera when they speak because some of them are on weak connections or are connecting through mobile data plans, and it might save them money as well as improving performance. Thailand has good connectivity, though, and a lot of businesses share free wifi, so I use the first week to pinpoint who has internet problems and suggest they find a better hotspot or solution.
There are a lot of problems teaching online at a Thai university. The biggest problem is net connectivity and speed. The second biggest problem is that the university staff and teachers are horrible at teaching and doing their jobs. Doing it online just compounds the issues.
One of my current side hustles is teaching teachers how to teach online and helping them get set up at home. Some of these teachers are still doing grades by hand (even when teaching online with every grading management tool available), so you can imagine that the transition is rough. The IT staff are so bad at their jobs, they can’t keep our website up for everyone to register for classes or make class changes, haven’t figured out how to install a security certificate in the ~20 years they’ve had the domain, and can’t even issue student ID numbers or email for freshmen before the term starts (which are necessary to register for classes and to attend online classes). There are also problems on the student side, but now, well into the second year of online classes and lockdowns, most have figured out how to at least attend their teachers’ pathetic online lectures, and that online classes are actually a good way to try and get their parents to pay for an iPad (definitely not required).
Nam and I love teaching online, though. Before we started, I had already set up a Twitch streaming system for Mina with condenser mic and various cameras, so we adapted that and added to it over time. This is what my setup looks like now.
On the vaccine front, I went in to get a Astra Zeneca jab at the vaccination center set up at my university a few weeks ago, and was told at the last stage (there were 3 stages to navigate), “no foreigners!” So, fuck them and their jelly vaccine shots, I guess (a bad batch of vaccines in Thailand was recently found to have turned into gel). Nam and I have paid a private hospital the full price for 2 Moderna jabs each – 3,400 baht/person. No telling when the government will get off its ass and actually get these vaccines delivered, but we are told, “as early as October.” Looks like all of my classes this term will be online!
Somebody brought their bull to graze on Nam’s mom’s property. This is a fairly normal occurrence in rural Thailand.
And this is as close as I dared get to it.
I was wearing a shirt and tie because I’d just come back on the way home from teaching a training course at the Maha Sarakham Provincial Office of the Comptroller General, by far the longest name of anywhere I’ve ever worked (and even a long name by Thai standards). The first thing I had the trainees do was memorize their place of work in English.
Anyway, this bull was just normal. Not angry, not scared, but not indifferent to our presence, either. So that was cool.
One day, Play Bar was just gone. Like, knocked down and smashed into rubble. We heard the guys running it opened another place, but it just didn’t have the same history as Play Bar… That was one of the first chill outdoor places here, and it all started less than ten years ago. Now there’s twenty places like that.
Holy shit, no wonder Northeast Thailand is so misunderstood:
The closest the Mekong River comes to Maha Sarakham province is around 170 kilometers away, in Mukdahan. One of the tributaries of the Mekong, the Chi River, does flow right through Maha Sarakham province and city, so it is connected, but if you want to use that logic, I nominate the Adriatic Sea as a wonderful Thing to Do in Maha Sarakham Province.
Also, the Mekong probably shouldn’t be grouped into Nature & Parks anymore since the water is barely flowing at times and most of the wildlife is dead and gone. The most accurate description for the foreseeable future is, “Heavily Exploited Power Source Where Giant Catfish Once Lived.”
I clicked the green See 1 Experience button shown in the lower right corner of the graphic above (the actual page is here). It took me to a page called OVERVIEW MEKONG DELTA (My Tho – Ben Tre)… Both of those places are in Vietnam for fuck’s sake! Not sure if Trip Advisor is aware if these two countries are not same same or if they are aware and it’s all just keyword games (because the word “Thailand” is in the link for a page having nothing to do with Thailand), but either way, it’s fucking despicable… Shitty travel sites should at least be responsible for lightly educating the shitheel tourists and backpackers they foist on the locals, yo.
Tropical Storm Podul (North Korean for “willow”) has been dumping on us since around midnight and I spent the day trying to prevent everything we own from being flooded including vehicles, property, and cats, as well as preparing to sign a lease for our new juku and organizing teaching materials for a seminar at a vocational college in Roi Et city tomorrow (which just got postponed until next week).
The highway we were supposed to take:
The area we were supposed to go:
A new skyscraper being built in the shape of a wot (alt spelling: wode; the circular pan flute of Isan):
The newly-created Roi Et Coast Guard station:
And finally, a common sight in the countryside that always brings a smile to my face:
That’s the road to Max and Mina’s school, a couple minutes from our house on the old Maha Sarakham University campus. Nam also found a big pla salit (gourami) stranded in our driveway, and I pushed his armored side along until he could swim back down into the flooded street. When she told a friend about this when we went shopping later in the day, he asked quite seriously why we hadn’t eaten it!
Note: Most of the photos on this page are borrowed from social media and were forwarded multiple times before I used them here. Please let me know if you’d like attribution.
When Nam is driving, I like snapping photos from the passenger seat. Up here in Isan, this type of photo is defined by capturing the camera in the side mirror and long green fields of rice when it’s the right time of year. Otherwise, it’s just a big, hot, dusty expanse.
My favorite urinal in the whole world because peeing while staring at swollen jackfruit pairs is somehow fascinating.
This is at an all-you-can-eat hot pot/grill buffet that has unfortunately changed owners, upped their prices, and is no longer worth going to. RIP Mum Aloi Ban Din Dam… Your 99 Baht buffet was the best in town!
We visited a nearby reservoir, Kaeng Loeng Chan (they really need to simplify the official English spelling), on the weekend. They were holding a work rally to cover the newly-created Health Park with grass sod and quite a few people showed up to volunteer (or as a Thai would say, to make merit).
We got bored of the manual labor after less than an hour and walked around the banks of the reservoir instead, taking photos and looking at dead crabs. The water seems too murky and oxygen-depleted to support fish close too shore, but they must be out there somewhere. Maybe I’ll take the kids fishing out there sometime.