Monday, February 25, 2013

Penelope again, RIP 24 february 2013

 I'm walking down that old lonely road babe, where I'm bound I can't tell (Bob Dylan, Don't Think Twice, It's All Right)
Ok, i decided it might not be such a bad idea to try to write this in English!

She was a cat who found her place in life.  Weak, skinny, dirty and abandoned, she found Roni (my niece) in the parking lot of a supermarket, I believe.  Roni took her home.  Later, for some reason I have either forgotten or never knew, Roni couldn’t keep her anymore, and took her home to my sister, who at that time was dealing with a very young doggie, Nikki.
In time, Penelope got her health and strength back, and after a few months was ready to get to know Nikki, a love, but very large dog (a mix of who knows what) with a lot of energy.   They chased each other endlessly.  You would have thought them eternal enemies… until you saw the evidence that it was a game.  When Nikki stopped chasing Penelope, Penelope was furious.  She would pester Nikki until Nikki took up the chase again.  Later, they even slept together, in my sister’s bedroom.
It wasn’t Penelope’s time to go; she was about 9 or 10 years old.  A very independent cat  -- is there another kind? – but every day she was outside waiting for Larry, my brother-in-law, to come home from work.  She was there in his parking space.  Of course, she knew the exact time he would arrive.
Penelope often visited the neighbors, an elderly Japanese-American couple, who would feed her.  Speaking of food, of course Penelope preferred Nikki’s dogfood to her catfood, and Nikki had to eat chicken freshly cooked by my sister, since Nikki doesn’t care for dog food.
I cannot imagine the next time I go to my sister’s house.  Penelope was buried in the backyard.
Life’s unfair.

Penelope, RIP, 24 February 2013

It wasn't my intention to write any blog entries in French (actually, it will be pretty embarrassing when somebody who knows French better than me reads it).  But I wrote it as a letter to a French-speaking friend, and decided I'd like to keep it.

See you down the road some time, Penelope.

C'est une chatte que a su trouver sa place dans la vie.  faible, mince, sale, et abandonnée, ella a trouvé Roni (ma nièce) dans le parking d'un supermarché, je crois.  Roni l'a emmenée à la maison.  Plus tard, pour une raison que j'ignore ou peut-être l'ai-je oubliée, Roni ne pouvait plus l'avoir chez soi.  Roni l'a laissé chez sa mère, ma sœur, qui avait une chienne très jeune, Nikki. 
Peu à peu Penelope a recupéré sa santé et ses forces, et après quelques mois elle était prête pour connaître à Nikki, un amour de chien, mais grande (c'est mélange de qui sais quoi) et avec beaucoup d'énergie.   Elles se chassaient le jour entier.  On les croirait des ennemis pour l'éternité jusqu'au moment où l'on a découvert que c'était un jeu.    Comment saviez-nous que c'était un jeu?  Parce que quand Nikki se fatigait de chasser Penelope, Penelope s'inquietait, et dérangait Nikki jusqu`à la contraindre à rejoindre la chasse.  Plus tard, les deux dormaient ensemble, dans la chambre de ma sœur.
Ce n'étais pas "son temps" de Penelope de s'en aller, elle avait peut-être 9 ou 10 ans.  Une chatten bien indépendente (il y en aura qui ne le sont pas???), mais tous les jours elle attendait le retour du travail de Larry, le mari de ma sœur, là où il garait la voiture.  Bien sûr, elle savait l'heure exacte.
Souvent Penelope allait chez les voisins, un vieux couple Japonais-americain, qui lui donnait qq chose à manger.
Bien sûr, Penelope aimait la nourriture de Nikki (c'est a dire, nourriture pour les chiens).  En Nikki.... elle mange du poulet fait exprès par ma sœur pour Nikki, parce que Nikki n'aime pas la nourriture de chiens.
Je n'imagine pas la prochaine fois que je vais chez ma sœur.  Penelope fut enterré dans le jardin derrière la maison.
Quelle injustice!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our flood adventure: shortish version

This was originally written around 13 nov 2011, though I have added a few things to it to reflect what happened afterwards..  I wrote versions of it to various people, but hadn't gotten around to posting it to my blog.  Let's see if I can get back into this blog this year.
By way of preface: Thai faced its worst flooding in 50 years, or 'ever', or... a long time anyway.  Our province, Ayutthaya, is at a confluence of several rivers, and always floods, but usually just closer to the rivers.  This year, we were the last to be hit.... but we were still hit.  
On october 12, we were advised to leave our house as the water was coming our way. A niece and nephew happened to be spending a couple of days w/ us (visiting from elsewhere in Thailand), and helped us move whatever could be moved. This saved our refrigerator and washer, and most of our furniture. I cannot tell you how valuable their help was. We had no clue what to do, but they worked like crazy for 3 hours, and saved us soooo many problems.
We moved to a conference center in our community. By the next day, the water was coming up a little. And on 14 october, it was threatening our car. We had go by boat to see our house bec all the roads had turned into lakes. At that point there was about 4" of water inside our house.
We left for Bangkok while the roads were still passable and stayed w another niece.
On 21 oct we went in a pick up truck to see our house. Most roads were impassable so we took a roundabout route that took several hours. It had 8-10" of water in it. On 29 oct, we went again by pick up truck, another multi-hour trip. This time the water in the house was down to abou 3-4". We took out a few more clothes.
By 3 nov we heard there was no more water in our house. We wanted to have the floors cleaned but had to go drop off the key. We heard it was possible to get there by car, so I decided to drive, on 5 nov, I think.
After a couple of false starts bec of newly flooded roads, plus one point where we advanced 3 km in 3 hours (not exaggerating), and drove through every kind of water, mud, and sand, we arrived at our house at 17.30, 10 hours after we had set out. My car looked like it had been in the Paris to Dakar car race.
It was too dark to go see our house, so we decided to spend the night in the community center. I didn't want to drive back in the dark under such horrible conditions.
The next morning we drove back in "only" 2 hrs 45 minutes, and our floors were cleaned, without us seeing.
We returned to our house on 11 dec.  We are still repairing and replacing, but the place is fine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Up to Nongkhai and Laos 10-12 february 2011

Just back from 3 days 2 nights driving from Ayutthaya to Nongkhai and into Vientiane for 4 hours only.  Several interesting stops along the way, including a stop to see my niece Nok and her husband Mon in the small city of Muang Phol, Khon Kaen.  We actually spent most of 2 days sitting in the van, traveling, but still managed to see some nice sights and saw the scenery on the 600+ km stretch between home and Nongkhai.

As you climb up from nearby Saraburi onto the Korat Plateau, the weather becomes cooler in the morning and hotter in the daytime.  Once you're past Nakorn Ratchasima (Korat), it becomes much drier, as evidenced by the much less green shrubbery and fields, compared to Central Thailand.  It seems Isaan (NE Thailand) is rather dry, and not at all lush.  Actually it's like parts of Southern California. 

Nongkhai really feels like a border town, crawling with transients from all nations, many Farangs heading for Laos, yet a lot of residents.  It sits on the beautiful River Khong (Mekong as we know if from further downstream during the Vietnam War).  Nice setting.

I don't think 4 hours in Laos qualifies me as an expert, but here are some observations: the people look Thai; the food tastes like Thai; but Vientiane looks NOTHING like Thailand.  Despite being at a lower level of development than any Thai city, and not as clean as Thailand, it really feels like the French left their mark.  The city doesn't have the kind of random feel that Thai cities do.  Vientiane, though seemingly not so large, looks more like what we Westerners consider a "city".  Facebook friends or those who got my Kodak link will get a look.  I hope to go back and take another, longer look, as well as explore Isan.

I spent the week teaching myself to read Lao letters (similar enough and different enough from Thai to get you into trouble), and managed to slog through.  When I got back and saw my first Thai sign on the border, for the first time in my life Thai looked so easy!!!  So there's a way to make Thai easier: try Lao!  Actually Lao is easier, but not if you start with Thai!  Gotta work on that one... 
Oh, and make sure you can count high in Lao if you go there: 250 Lao kip = 1 thai baht = 3.3 US Cents.  So lunch for four is.... well, you do the math.  They accept Thai baht happily and will give change in Baht, except at small stands where you get change in Kip.   Need to go back and spend more kip.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A month not "out there"

Just got back from a month in the U.S.  I thought I would do some blogging there, but internet access wasn't always that convenient.  Well, that's one excuse.   I was happy to see some of my work mates, and even to do a little work; more thrilled to see my daughter and grandkitty (and boyfriend-- daughter's, not grandkitty's); and very very happy to see my son and his family as well as other cousins.
LA felt familiar.... duh, I'd lived there off and on since 1964!  But it didn't necessarily feel like home, since I don't have a home there.  Spent 4 days in SF, mostly on business.  That was great too.  For sheer esthetics, it's hard to find a more beautiful city in the U.S.  And so convenient.  Then a week in Boston (including 2 day time-out for NJ via NY on Amtrak and NJ Transit bus).  There's no doubt about it: while I"ve never lived there, only visited, Boston is my favorite city in the U.S.  It's beautiful, it's convenient, it has fabulous people, unparalleled Italian food, fantastic dim sum, and the best bookstores.  OK, and Filene's basement, though that wasn't all that much a thrill for me personally.  The original Filene's basement, literally in the basement of the no longer extant Filene's, on the way into the Downtown Crossing T-Station, was something to behold, jam packed with all kinds of goods at unbelievable prices.  The one on Boylston is very nice, very civilized, (with great restrooms, something I've come to appreciate), but it misses the grittiness of the original basement.

After four weeks, I was actually quite ready to come back to Thailand.  Came here to find our stuff that we shipped had finally arrived, and we've been dealing with 70+ pieces (mostly boxes) since we arrived three days ago.    The house is shrinking with each box of books I open.  Not that I'm complaining....   The second picture is a digitized slide from around 1975 that my friend Steve sent me.  At UCLA.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

14 October 2010 Kindness

Two days ago I sat in the administration building using the internet (still waiting at home; should be by the end of this week, they say), and as I was about to walk out, one of the front office girls who I barely know, said to me "Lung (Uncle), your car has a flat tire."
Well, I was like a deer in the headlights.  I just zoned out.  I hadn't changed a flat in 20 years, wasn't even sure if my car had a jack.  I "came to" long enough to phone my neighbor, a Thai guy who lived in the US for 40 years.  He set off with his wife to rescue me.
Meanwhile, the front office girl called a couple of guys to come change my tire  They and my neighbhor arrived simultaneously and formed a tire changing committee, with very positive results. 
This young lady did not go more than 2 meters away from me during this whole time, making sure the tongue-tied Farang was completely taken care of.  On the one hand, it was a reflection of what a nice person she is.  On the other hand, it was not at all unusual for Thailand.
After the tire was fixed, my neighbor took me to a nearby tire repair shop (they are everywhere out here in the boondocks, as the many trucks often get flats on the good but sometimes complicated roads).  He made sure the tire repair shop understood me, and $3.25 later, I had a perfectly patched tire re-loaded on my car, with the spare back in the trunk.
Footnote on spare:  The cars here come with REAL spare tires, not those little donuts you get in the US nowadays.
It's not hard to find stuff to criticize here, but the kindness is extraordinary.

14 October 2010 Japanese village

If you are a facebook friend, you've already seen the pictures.  The Japanese village is a true gem in Ayutthaya.  Located southeast of the island, it is directly across the Chao Phraya from the old Portuguese settlement.  The portuguese settlement, as I think I mentioned before, is basically just a "ruin".  It's a shame, because they have the foundations and have identified several of the chambers.  They should just restore it and make it a tourist attraction.  Sort of "Lisbonland" in Ayutthaya.
Well, the Japanese did just that, in a way.  There are, as far as I could ascertain, absolutely no original structures of the Japanese presence, which goes back 400 years.  Basically they built a small but fascinating museum (featuring a great 10 minute documentary on the history of Ayutthaya, in Japanese and Thai with subtitles in the other language and in English).  The museum has a reproduction of the most famous mural-map of Ayutthaya, of which the original hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I believe.  Plus there are a few artifacts.  There is a small research library with books and computers.  Then there is a Japanese Zen-style garden.  And finally, the obligatory gift shop, but with a twist.  The owner is Japanese (though he has a couple of thai employees), he speaks some Thai and English.  They accept payment in Japanese Yen, i.e. this is a definite tourist destination for Japanese in Thailand.  All the signs and labels are in Japanese, some are in Thai, and none in any Roman alphabet based language.    The stuff they sell is the typical tourist stuff you can find anywhere in Thailand, and they don't even shaft you particularly on the prices.  Using my rudimntary Japanese, I asked the owner if it was okay to pay in Thai Baht.  He thought that was quite humorous, and halfway through his laugh he realized I'd asked him in Japanese.  That led to a short but pleasant conversation in Japanese (my conversations in Japanese have to be VERY short), while the store was empty.  Five minutes later a tour bus emptied a load of Japanese tourists into the store.
Anyway, I highly recommend the Japanese village as a tourist destination.  You need about a hour or so for it, and can combine it with a couple of other nearby attractions in Ayutthaya (of which there is no end).