Tuesday, March 22, 2005

One of the first things we learn in life is we are responsible for our actions...unless of course you are a celebrity.

Martha Stewart, inmate 55170-054, recently released from the Alderson Federal Women's prison in West Virginia after her whopping five months incarceration, is now free again to unleash more of her insults and mistreatment upon the American public.

It doesn't take much research to uncover the fact that Stewart has a gleaming reputation as a royal bitch.

Her statement upon release from federal prison:

"The experience of the last five months in Alderson, West Virginia has been life altering and life affirming. Someday, I hope to have the chance to talk more about all that has happened, the extraordinary people I have met here and all that I have learned. I can tell you now that I feel very fortunate to have had a family that nurtured me, the advantage of an excellent education, and the opportunity to pursue the American dream. You can be sure that I will never forget the friends that I met here, all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children, and the stories they have told me."

Life altering and life affirming?

What sort of namby-pamby horseshit is that?

She goes on to say...

"Right now, as you can imagine, I am thrilled to be returning to my more familiar life. My heart is filled with joy at the prospect of the warm embraces of my family, friends, and colleagues. Certainly, there is no place like home."

"There is no place like home."

Been revisiting the Wizard of Oz in the Alderson rec room Martha?

Personally, I was hoping she would buy a good solid sentence of about twelve to twenty years without parole, but then...that's the American justice system for ya.

I have a friend back home who is doing better than five years for growing ganja. He's a wonderful guy with tons of friends, has no prior record, and to my knowledge never insulted another human being on earth. Upon his release, his life will be all but ruined. I sincerely doubt he'll be calling his experience, "Life altering and life affirming."

Five months?


Karma's gonna get ya Martha babe!


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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Thai Spirit Houses

Many Thai people believe that when a Thai family builds a new house, there is always the possibility that it has disturbed the spirits who live on the property.

In order to protect their new home from the spirits revengeful harm or mischief, some Thai families put up a little model house (SAN PHRA PHUM) on a pole for the spirits to live in. The spirit house must be located somewhere on the grounds where the shadow of the human house will never fall on it.

Offerings of incense, candles, fruit, drinks, flower garlands, rice, chicken, eggs, betel leaves and little figurines representing servants, dancers, elephants, and cars, will be placed here, because the spirits must be kept happy at all costs.

Amazingly enough, though they look like houses and are temptingly stocked with food, the spirit houses are almost never occupied by birds. Perhaps even the birds respect these invisible beings.


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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Well, our play “The Three Little Pigs,” was a tremendous success!

I was doing fine, last Thursday, as I walked to school…until I reached our classroom and saw all the kids adorned in their costumes, huge smiles on their made-up faces, tittering on the edge of excitement.

Then I became nervous.

I went through a series of terrible, “What ifs,” which threatened to dampen my past optimism. The “stage father” was fretting something awful. The kids noticed this of course and surrounded me, hugging me, and cajoling me to smile and mellow out.

They succeeded of course, as they usually do, and I slowly began to take deep breaths and tell myself everything would be fine.

Once we entered the backstage wings, the rest was a blur. It went fast! Seemingly much faster than in our rehearsals and it was all over in no time flat. None of the problems I envisioned ever happened. Things went so smoothly it wasn’t even funny.

To say I was proud when the applause burst forth would be a terrible minimization. It seemed I couldn’t stop smiling, even though my cheeks hurt.

I love those kids and right now, as I look back on that moment, I cannot think of anything that would possibly have made me happier than to see their happy faces as they bowed to the appreciative audience.

I look forward to doing this again next year.

Speaking of “Next year,” I am prepared to sign another contract for yet another year here in southern Thailand. Although I have had a numerous amount of job offers from other provinces in Thailand, I have decided to stay here another year and teach these wonderful children again.

The “unobtainable one” is another reason I have decided to stay, but certainly secondary to my beautiful, wonderful Thai children.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Day in the Life of Jeeem in Thailand

Today I’d like to take you with me on my walk to school…

Dressed and ready, we walk out my front door, step upon the covered porch, and stamp out our shoes to rid them of the creatures that inhabited them during the night.

Grabbing our umbrellas (because you never know when a thunderstorm will hit and you DON’T want to be caught in a Thailand thunderstorm…), we unlock the outside gate and re-lock it once we’re outside, descending onto Soi three.

Rounding the bend of the river, some of the local children notice us and approach…some uttering “Farang! (Westerner)” and others just clamoring to shake our hands and say hello or good morning, or just get a good look at us.

We follow Soi 3 (rural road) toward the bridge, waving to several families who recognize us, either because they have children who are taught at our school, or because they know we live in the neighborhood.

We pass beneath the sacred tree, with a trunk so wide, twelve men might find it difficult to surround it by joining hands. There’s a marble alter built in front of this tree, with several bronze, Buddhist figurines set upon it. To the right of the alter is a three foot, concrete fa├žade of a Cobra snake, black back and white underbelly, with open mouth, exposed fangs, and a multitude of offerings stuck in it’s mouth. Today, we observe, there’s an egg in there and several flower necklaces hanging from the Cobras’ fangs.

Spiritual offerings are placed all about the marble alter, including dishes of food, burning incense, flowers, burning candles, and liquid offerings. The huge tree trunk is adorned with many multi-colored swathes of silk cloth. Spirit houses* adorn the base of the tree trunk, as well as trinkets and a small disco ball, which hangs from a nearby tree limb.

Moving on, we encounter several people passing by on motorcycles, most who recognize us and either smile, beep, or wave. We nod recognition and receive many broad smiles. This being, of course, the Land of Smiles.

The local mechanic is up and about this morning, a cornhusk cigarette hanging from his lips, as he grins and waves. We cross over the bridge, take an abrupt right, and head north on route 4, gazing at the traffic, which is immense even for 7:30 in the morning.

Songtheaws and buses stream past, honking and waving down passengers heading south to Sadao.

We come upon the local petrol station, where two of the employees are waiting for us.

The gasoline jockeys employed here, are quite friendly. The bigger one of them sports a huge beer belly and constantly walks around the lanes with his tee shirt hiked up, exposing his rotund belly to everyone who can see. Every morning he smiles, salutes, and says, “Good Morning Teacher!” His son is a student at our school, in Prathom four.

The other gasoline jockey is an older fellow, skinny as a rail, but always with a smile plastered on his face. He greets us with a hearty, “HALLO!”

We walk on…passing the discount clothing shop, the bus stop, and crossing the side street, we come upon my good friend who has had a stroke. His face is waxy and you can see the bells palsy on the right side of his face. He is standing today, shaking his hands vigorously, religiously doing his physical therapy exercises. He smiles at us and winks, not wanting to disturb his rhythm.

In the next block, we come upon my muscle bound Thai friend. He always smiles and sometimes he has his pretty wife with him and his adorable son. We’re lucky today, for as we approach, he is hoisting a huge bag of rice on his shoulders and his wife and son are sitting only paces away. We approach and as they notice us, their smiles warm our hearts. The little one puts down his breakfast bowl and comes to us, wanting to shake hands. We shake hands with him and utter ‘Sawasdee Krap’ to the mother and her husband, as we forge onward in our morning journey.

Approaching the main street in Thunglung, our eyes downward, looking for dog poop, as there are many resident dogs in this stretch and they only have one place to poop and that’s the sidewalk.

Rounding the corner and heading east on main street, we pass the caged Mynah bird, who squawks, “Hello!” This seems so bizarre, in a world of Thai language; we have a damn bird who speaks English!

Main Street is lined with small stores and restaurants, which are mostly quiet now…only to become very active in the early evening. We head towards the village’s central park and turn left, heading toward Phatong Wittaya School. Several Songtheaws, buses, trucks and whatnot, stream by…loaded with school children from the surrounding neighborhoods. Out of these packed vehicles we hear, “Teacher! Teacher!” Alternatively “Mr. Jim!” We wave in recognition, much to the pleasure of the kids.

Waving to the throngs of students, we proceed along the sidewalk that borders the park, heading to school. Looking up, tangled in the power lines, are huge spider webs, replete with huge, black and white spiders, the size of a man’s hand. I shudder at the thought of these incredible beasts, but I’m aware that they exist in plentiful form in all countries of Southeast Asia, and are quite harmless.

The park is narrow and long and as we stroll along, suddenly out of the north comes a loud "BLEEEEE!" Suddenly, a rusted, worn looking locomotive and it's attached cargo cars, come streaming by, bleating out it's warning as it streams past this idealistic children's park. The irony in this fails to settle fully on me.

Finally, we approach the school. To our left is a throng of food carts, steam and blue smoke coming off some of them, all of them surrounded by throngs of schoolchildren in their daily uniforms (girls in blue pleated skirt and white blouse and boys in black shorts and white shirt).

The fare offered is as diverse as one can imagine. Breakfast treats are offered, wrapped in banana leaf, or served in shallow dish. Thai dishes consisting of barbequed chicken or pork, shrimp and cockle dishes, also are prevalent…causing my taste buds to protest. In Thai culture, dishes eaten at midday are likewise eaten in the morning hours.

The school grounds are not unlike an anthill, busy with workers, students, teachers and the like….we have arrived. We Wei the welcoming party at the gate, as we enter and head for our classroom, admidst more cries of, "Teacher! Teacher!"

*explained in more detail at a later posting


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I've been lazy.

Actually, I've been rather lethargic.

This heat is really oppressive! We haven't had rain now for...um, maybe two months? Still, there's the humidity that no doubt comes from all the lush vegetation around here. So, when I get home from work, jumping into the shower, slipping into some shorts, having a cold glass of ice water and reading a book are on my immediate agenda.

We're winding things down at school, getting ready for the spring break. This week I'm giving exams all week and then next week we'll be having the summer camp on Thursday and Friday.

The summer camp will begin with a short performance and then my kids will be performing, "The Three Little Pigs." Looking back, I remember selecting the characters and then someone thinking, "Oh! Are any of the little pigs Muslim?" We hadn't thought of that. Well, one of them is, but it was finally approved. Today he's a proud little pig.

The three little pigs (all boys and rather naughty, hyper ones at that), as well as their murderous foe the big bad wolf (played by our only first grader, a tiny little girl who is ferocious in her own right), received their custom made costumes today. If ever there was a proud teacher [pseudofather] it was me.

Having never had any children (up to this point of 49), I can really appreciate the "gift" parents talk about, amidst their complaints about the little rug rats more menacing behavior. Seeing these kids happy just makes my day.


On the "unobtainable one's" front, she's proving to perhaps be not so unobtainable. Perhaps I do listen to my big Sis in Michigan sometimes...just ask me more Shirl!

After the summer camp is over, vacation pretty much begins. Oops! I said, "vacation" didn't I? It's "holiday" around here and as I'm finding out...practically everywhere else in the world too, except the U.S. I've had to change a lot of my American ways living here in Asia. It seems that the U.S. does a lot of things differently than the rest of the world.

So, once my "holiday" begins, I'll have damn close to a month and two weeks of paid time off. My old childhood buddy Jesus was planning on flying out to visit me for a couple of weeks in April but his plans got cut short when he took a new job and has to get through the 90 day probation period first. Hopefully he'll come out in October.

Well, that's all for now. I hope to post another "Jeeem's life in Thailand" series soon, if I can find some energy waiting for me at the end of the day.

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