2016: My Year in Review and a Look Forward to 2017

I will long remember the year past as one of death. While nobody from my family or circle of friends died in 2016, a number of favorite musicians and actors did. I was also profoundly affected by the mid-October passing of the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Over the decade-plus that I’ve lived in Phuket, I’ve become a staunch Royalist and the death of His Majesty came in the midst of my annual courses with Thai bank staff members. Seeing their sadness, as well as the intense mourning that occurred throughout the nation, deeply effected me and I continue to feel a bond with Thai people that is difficult to describe to other foreigners.

As 2017 dawns, I pray that it will be a year of much happiness and light after the darkness that pervaded much of 2016. Don’t misunderstand me: there were quite a few good times and the year is certainly ending on a high note in that I’m in my first “real” relationship in around six or seven years.

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10 Years Ago, Part 1: Albuquerque

This is the first of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

DSC03645_10yearsTen years ago this week, I made my final trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I’d lived since June 1994, along with my brother-in-law.  We were there in order to clean out my home as I was starting a new life here in Phuket.  Keith and I spent a couple of days putting my furniture and boxes filled with the memorabilia of a life in music, books, and travel into a large storage unit under the watchful majesty of Sandia Peak.  Even my beloved car – a lapis lazuli Dodge Neon – went into storage when we were finished.  I thought I’d return to the States within a year or two in order to retrieve my things.  Alas, it was never to be.

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A Bit of Tinglish at Central, Phuket

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All over Southeast Asia, there are examples of signs badly translated into English.  In my experience, Thailand seems to have a higher percentage of “crazy English” signs than anywhere else in the region.  There’s even a word for it:  Tinglish, which is a combination of “English” and the Thai word, ting tong, meaning “odd” (equivalent to the English “ding dong”).  The reason that the Thais making these signs rarely enlist the aid of the plethora of native English speakers lurking about is that they don’t want to “lose face” by asking a farang (foreigner) for help in any way.

Thus, we get gems such as the above example along a loading dock driveway at Central Festival, Phuket’s oldest Western-style shopping mall (opened in December 2004).  I believe they are trying to restrict motorbikes from parking along a fence that divides the two lanes of the driveway (although there are at least half-a-dozen bikes there at any given time).  “No Parking” would have been better.  The bottom part warns that violators will have a lock fastened on the front wheel of their motorbike, the removal of which will necessitate their paying a fine of 500 baht.  My guess is that this is the result of entering the Thai into Google Translate.

The one below is much, much better.  However, I believe they mean that security will check the trunk (or, “boot” if you prefer).  The only other mistakes are the capital S in “search”, no spacing between the first full stop and “We”, and the misuse of the pronoun “you” with the possessive pronoun “your” is required.  This is about as good as Thai-made signs come.

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Koong & Andy’s Just Wed Party

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I don’t really go to many parties, particularly what I’d classify as the high-society type.  But when a good friend gets married, one really has to do what one can to participate.  I’ve known Andrew for a few years now; he’s probably the most interesting Englishman I know, a former Special Forces officer in the employ of Her Majesty the Queen as well as being a Shakespearean thespian.

His “After Wedding Party” was held at the beautiful O2 Beach Club in Chalong Bay on the Monday before Christmas.  It was quite the affair – all guests dressed in white (well, save one) and included Andy singing a few songs while accompanying himself on guitar plus a truly interesting fire-dancer (I’ve seen many that were extremely boring and predictable; this one was anything but).  The food was awesome; I fell in love with the larb (spicy meat salad) packed in celery rings.  However, the highlight for me was being introduced to one beautiful, intelligent and financially-stable single woman after another.  Where had they all been hiding?

Enjoy the photo album after the break…

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Most Thoughtful Gifts

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It took a couple of years of packages that never arrived and frustrations over extremely high shipping costs to convince my sister and I that annual holiday exchanges between Kansas and Thailand were more trouble than they were worth.  Since 2008 or so, the majority of our exchanges have been the online variety.

But every once in a while, I’m shocked by some morsel in the morning mail delivery.  Whatever it may be, it always reaffirms my belief that my sister is the smartest and most thoughtful person currently living (having inherited those qualities from our dearly-departed mother).  This year, Marilyn truly outdid herself…

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Berlin Wall Fall: A Virtual Memory

0001Reading about the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this week found me waxing nostalgic.  Without going into too many details, this historic event and  others surrounding the “opening” of Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union had a profound affect on my life at the time and continues to shape my psyche.  There was a profound sense of HOPE throughout the world that I feel hasn’t existed since those heady days of the late 1980’s and early to mid-1990’s. 

At the time, I amassed a nice collection of “souvenirs” of many of these events – largely philatelic.  I even had my “piece” of the Wall (practically a boulder!).  Sadly, those are mostly gone – victims of  my move from the deserts of the southwest United States to the jungles of Southeast Asia.  What’s left are memories which, thanks to the magic of the Internet, can be visualized at times such as this.

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Finally Catching Up!!

Tonight’s upload speeds (at least for the time being) seem much improved over the last several days so I’m on the verge of catching up on uploading photos to the Penang Photos galleries.  You may have noticed that I published the “Part 4” article before I’d uploaded the photos to accompany it and then suffered tons of failed uploads — it felt like I was trying to squeeze a Chiang Mai sausage through a 7-Eleven straw!  But those photos are almost all online now and that will free me up to write “Part 5” tomorrow.  This will cover last Thursday’s wanderings — I’ll take a look at the photos as the majority were taken in George Town’s Protestant Cemetery and I doubt that a gallery showing a hundred or so gravestones hidden amongst the trees would be of much interest.  I’ll probably just upload the more significant graves — Captain Francis Light’s, for example, and that of the oldest known European burial.  It will finish out the series and I’ll then start working on my various street guides for Old Phuket Town.

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