Raising a family in Thailand // Documenting Issan food, culture, music, and people
Taken during a meeting a couple weeks ago on my HTC Desire HD with Camera 360. I’m really happy with this phone.
Last night, I was driving alone down the highway into a headwind and a small gecko suddenly appeared on the outside of the windshield, probably blown up through the bodywork from wherever he was chilling down below.
Geckos are good to have in your car because they eat bugs and are just cool to watch, but it sucks when they die inside because they stink for ages. Anyway, I have always been fascinated by their sticky feet. I decided to test just how much grip they have by flooring it. I got to about 170 km/h when he suddenly crouched down low in a spiderman pose and leaped off the side of the windshield. The thing is, I have a feeling that the wind carried him into the open window. If so, I hope the little guy eats his share of the mosquitoes that torture Mina in the back… and eventually dies peacefully outside.
When I ventured out this morning to buy the kid’s breakfast, sticky rice and barbecued pork skewers (which have gone up in price universally to 5 baht per skewer — they were still 3 baht at some places up until a couple months ago), I drove though a fog hovering in the neighborhood behind ours. Even with the windows closed, I got a whiff of Raid and realized they were fumigating the area again. I hurriedly went to buy the food — in an yet unsprayed area — and rushed back home.
Nam said she’d just heard a pickup driving around blasting a message from the local government, so that meant they were coming to spray at our house, too. It was just past 7:30, about an hour before we usually take Max to school near our house, and Mina to her school near Nam’s university. But the spray man was coming, so we had to get them out. I got them dressed while Nam packed their bags, then I got them in the car and strapped them in their seats. I got the car running and pulled it out onto the street in front of the house, pointed away from the direction they were coming. Nam came running out with the bags, got in the car and pulled away… I stood there watching them leave in my boxers, and exactly one minute later heard the sound of insect doom:
So we went to Koh Samet for a few days with a bunch of my coworkers and some of their families. It was awesome, but I feel the need to write about what’s been happening around here before moving onto editing the trip photos and video.
Max and Mina started school on May 18. Max is now going to the demonstration school at the old Maha Sarakham University campus, very close to the Rajabhat University where I work, because his old school shut down at the end of the last term. Mina is going to a nursery school very close to Nam’s office, at the new Maha Sarakham University campus. Both of them were having a hard time the first week, but Mina seems to enjoy going now. Max has separation issues and still cries some mornings. Today it was very hard. Since they are the same issues I had when I was little, I end up spending most of the day wondering if he’s happy or not, and whether he will remember how he feels now when he grows up… I still remember holding onto my dad’s gold chain as hard as I could and crying my head off as a teacher tried to pry me away – then wondering 30 minutes later, as the tears dried, why I had felt so sad before. Anyway, watching your kids being unhappy has got to be one of the hardest things to face. I only take consolation in our after action reports when I pick him up from school and he says he had fun playing with his friends and doing art, dancing, eating paste, etc.
As I write this, my head is starting to hurt. Nam took me to Mahasarakham hospital today, where I had three warts from my head, one from my face, and several skin tags from my chest, back, and neck removed. The ones on my head were large and required excision, as well as four, two, and three stitches, respectively. There is probably a big enough area on my head unaffected enough to be able to lie face up on a pillow tonight. Stitches are scheduled to come out in a week, and the doctor told me not to try removing them myself, but I probably wouldn’t try anyway since I can’t see them (although being told not to try kind of makes it tempting — actually, maybe the doctor’s busy next week and doesn’t want to do it, so laid a reverse psychology trap…).
The decision to send Mina to school at one and a half years old was kind of forced on us. We lost Max’s beloved nanny back in March, when her husband cheated on her and she went suicidal. We looked after her as best we could, and started looking for another nanny. Long story short, it is hard to find good help these days. We make an effort to take care of our help and still… It’s just really hard. So we started looking at school as an alternative to Mina being watched at home by people we couldn’t trust 100%. Guess what, we would never leave her with someone we don’t trust. So she is going to school, and seems to be loving it now that she’s in the groove. She is the most precocious child her age we’ve ever seen, and that is why we worry about Max more than Mina at school.
My stream of consciousness is now being interrupted by burning sensations where my scalp is stitched up.
There was one sight at Koh Samet that really made a strong impression on us… We went on a snorkeling tour on a speedboat, and on the way back to our resort, stopped at a fish farm. It didn’t appear to be a commercial farming operation, rather it seemed to exist as a tourist attraction. There were many tour company boats docking up next to it at any given time (I never saw if we paid an entrance fee or not, I have a feeling each tour company pays and that part of our payment for the tour went toward that). The farm consisted of neighboring fish pens arranged in a grid; pens were square and consisted of a net suspended from steel frames tied to blue plastic 55 gallon drums upon which wooden catwalks were laid — the catwalks were approximately one foot in width. Nam carried Mina, and Max insisted on walking by himself to check out each pen of fish, so I held his hand and let him walk in front of me. Imagine my surprise as we slowly proceeded (LOOK, DADDY! FISHIES!!) past pens of barramundi, snapper, clownfish, pomfret, gouramis, jacks, and a sad-looking giant grouper and eventually came upon an open pen of sharks! Two zebra sharks and two leopard sharks, four or five feet long, swimming in never-ending circles and chomping on bait the tourists were throwing in! This being the biggest attraction, people were passing each other on the narrow catwalks and the entire structure was bobbing up and down from the shifting weight — I am SURE somebody has fallen in there before. I guess nobody’s gotten bitten, though, because the fact that the shark pen is uncovered just blew our minds. Max thought it was cool as hell, though (I did, too, but for different reasons — it was like hearing about renting RPGs and buying cows to shoot in Cambodia or something).
So the staff in the operating room today were really excited to have a foreigner to practice English on, and it was funny and surreal all wrapped into one as I listened to the molam tunes playing through a portable radio and smelled my flesh being cauterized while being asked if I “wanted more drug” or not (oh hell yes!). It reminded me of the time I got hit by a car on my scooter in Japan in the dead of winter, flew over the handle bars into a snowy rice field and banged my head hard enough to crack my helmet, then after a long ambulance ride and wait on a cold gurney, being told a one-word prognosis by the doctor: “Lobotomy.” Shit, I wish I’d had a video camera for that one…
A picture’s worth a thousand words update:
Somebody’s photo of the fish farm
Somebody else’s photo of one of the sharks
You can tell this is from a couple months ago because my car is still in the driveway (hopefully out of the shop soon), and our front lawn still exists (a month after this it was a rock garden for two weeks, then a weed bed, and now it’s a mud puddle we are waiting to line with plastic so we can replace the rocks and confound the weeds).
This photo is from a couple months ago, but Max insisted we do the same thing today in the afternoon heat… Can you tell how off-balance the keel is? (and yes, the water really is that green)
Note: This is a big man made pond in front of a newly-built conference hall at the new campus of Maha Sarakham University, where Nam teaches.
Offered mostly without comment because I’m still chewing on them:
The last Japanese man remaining in Kazakhstan
A Kafkian tale of the plight of a Japanese POW in the Soviet Union
An Evening with J. D. Salinger
Of course he’s crazy, that’s why his best works ring so true.
Educating B Students
My question is: Where have all the A students gone?
The New Atheists’ Narrow Worldview
If it weren’t for the crazy shit based in monkey-ass superstition, religion wouldn’t be half as entertaining… And in that regard, I think of animistic religions as more honest than others.
Alternate Universe Movie Posters
With over 16 million views, I’m obviously one of the last car nuts to see this, but it’s admittedly awesome:
The first rule of drifting is: DRIFTING KILLS (TIRES*)
I was laughing at his shifter until I realized it was the side brake lever (he’s using paddle shifters).
Getting rid of Bitty turned out to be a mistake. Max demanded to know where his pet had gone. Upon learning that Bitty had been returned to the pond (“to be with his friends…”), he threw an epic fit. It was so incredibly heart-rending and long, we all piled in the car. Destination: Pet store.
The main pet store in Maha Sarakham is five minutes from our house, but it seemed like ages with Max screaming the whole way. The last time I’d been there was a few years before, to buy charcoal for my DIY air/water purification project (mission status: Incomplete). I had been horrified to see the neglect of the fishtanks on display; a couple of them were filled with the black, rotting corpses of goldfish bobbing violently as the pumps merrily bubbled away. This time, there were no such horrors. We bought Max the smallest possible tank (ten inches by six?) with gravel and a pump, and decided on two attractively striped little bitties. We didn’t know it at the time, but this tank contained an anomalous zone with Strange Occurrences.
The best way to describe the Occurrences is with a timeline of the less than one-month span the aquarium was actually in operation, plus the follow-up period:
So the main mystery is: What happened to the fish? The simple explanation is that the crabs ate them. However, although this is perhaps a reasonable explanation for the second fish, the first fish was nearly as big as the small crab (the big crab wasn’t yet in the tank when the first fish disappeared). And there are other questions/factors as well:
The other major possibility is that the fish jumped out of the tank, but I never found them. The area around the table the tank was kept on was cluttered with baby seats and toys and whatnot, but I looked around everywhere more than once and still didn’t find anything.
Not having a satisfactory answer and not knowing eventually led me to consider alternative explanations:
I fear I will never know.
Does anybody out there have a better guess?
This is the funniest series I’ve seen in a long time.
The first two are my favorites but the rest are funny as well:
What it’s really like to work in a music store PART III
What it’s really like to work in a music store PART IV
What it’s really like to work in a music store PART V