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Friday, July 30, 2010


Red shirts

Next to Talat Noi on the MSU campus is a parking lot. I walk through it on the way to buy my dinner. One evening I noticed a small bunch of kids on the back of a ute/pick-up leaping about noisily and waving toy guns in the air. As I passed, one of them must have noticed me and called out 'farang' ie Westerner. I ignored them and kept walking. Then my mind ticked over what I had seen, some of these kids were wearing red shirts. I already had my camera in my hand. I was planning to take some shots of the market. So I turned around and walked back to them.

'Tai roop mai khap?' May I take your photograph?

They were most happy to oblige. I would loved to have got them in action as I'd seen before but didn't know the Thai to make that request so had to settle for the posed shot you see here. How subdued they look in contrast.

I can only guess what was going on. This is just a bunch of kids playing with toy guns. Sadly, that's what kids do. They don't know any better if some adult is prepared to buy the toys. Was there any significance in the red shirts? Perhaps it was just a coincidence that two of them happened to be wearing red. Or perhaps not. Their parents are probably stall holders at the market and so would be members of the poor class that the red-shirt protesters claim to represent. I don't know the answer but I have to wonder if this is perhaps some subtle form of indoctrination of the young.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010


Old routines

As I write this I'm back staying in the Ajahn's Condos at Mahasarakham University in the building next to the one I lived in last year. Some things have changed around here but in many ways it is easy to slip back into the life I had before.

It was my regular practise to visit Talat Noi, the little night market on campus, to buy my dinner. Talat Noi had, I believe, grown organically over the years. As new stall holders came, they fitted in wherever they could in the area around the canteen. Since I've been gone, they've moved it to an open area and now the stalls are all in neat rows. To me, it's lost a little of its charm and there are so many stalls now it hardly deserves to be called noi, ie 'little'.

Still, I was able to find the stall where the young couple make Pad Thai and got back into that routine quite easily. I also recognise many of the other stall holders but there are many new ones too.

It was my Saturday morning routine to take my laundry to a young woman who lives about 100 metres behind the Ajahn's Condos. Perhaps I was a little early this time because her shop was not open. Another one was and I delivered my dirty clothes there. I went across the road to where I used to regularly get my haircut but the barber shop was not open either.

At lunch time, I had to change my routine. I didn't have my bicycle. I couldn't ride to the restaurant where I would usually buy gai yang, BBQ chicken, and sticky rice. But there was a street stall selling it just behind the Condos so I still got my treat.

Before I went back to collect my laundry I went back to the barber shop. My barber was there. When he saw me his eyes lit up. I could see he was smiling behind the surgical mask he was wearing. When I sat in the chair he asked 'Bai nai ma?' Where have you been?

I told him I'd been to Australia. I've been letting my hair grow lately to keep my ears warm in the Australian winter. He pointed at it and made some comment suggesting I'd not had it cut since the last time I'd visited him. It didn't take long for him to restore my monk-like hairstyle. I asked if I could take his picture (for this blog) but he declined. Unlike most Thais he is apparently camera shy.

I went back across the road and there was the young woman who had usually done my laundry. She was beaming. I waved and went on to the other laundress. On the way back I stopped and chatted with my regular laundress. She asked where I'd been and I told her. 'Kittung' she said, I missed you.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Was he missing me?

I first met Ead and Tong in Australia many years ago. This was back when I had made just a few visits to Thailand. I was moving towards spending more time in Thailand and had been trying to learn the language by myself. I reached a point where I thought that I needed real Thai people to practise with.

One night I was at a party and saw a guy in the crowd who I thought looked Thai so I went and said 'hello'. Sure enough he was Thai so we chatted for a while. Before the evening was over I suggested that we could get together for a language sharing.

Ead and his wife, Tong, were both studying for MBAs in Brisbane. They invited a few of their friends and we had a little group that got together from time to time to practise each others languages. As a group we did a lot of things together as well as practising language. We often visited each others homes and we participated in Thai cultural celebrations. I saw my first Loy Kratong festival at UQ in Brisbane.

They all returned to Thailand before I made my move there at the end of 2002. Ead and Tong's house became my base whenever I was in Bangkok. They were always good to me. Ead was always waiting at the airport whenever I flew into Bangkok. I see them as my brother and sister in Bangkok.

When I made the decision to return to Thailand again I sent an email to both Ead and Tong telling them I would arrive on July 21 and giving flight details. On June 21 Ead turned up at the airport and there was no sign of me. He rang Tong and asked her to check my email to see if he had the date right. 'No,' she told him. 'He comes on 21st July.' I guess he was just keen to see me.

Thanks Ead and Tong for the love you have both given me over the years. It is really appreciated.

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