Monday, January 30, 2006

Last day at STOU and a Monk with a Poodle!

Yesterday at the picnic I noticed a monk with a white, overweight, very well groomed poodle. The poodle was following the Monk closely. The Monk was with a group of people, I think his family. I also noticed that the Monk was wearing shoes. I was perplexed, but I think what was happening is that the Monk was on one of the temporary religious experiences and not a permanent Monk.

Today was my last day at STOU. In the morning I taught Word skills and then we had a lunch. Many people were there including the President of the university, the directors of the departments that I worked with, and most importantly many of the people who I really worked with. The food was excellent, the speeches and comments were thoughtful, and I felt honored and happy to have had my experience at STOU.

One of the goals of my sabbatical was to get a new perspective on my life and my career, to fill my mind and my emotions with new experiences. I have done that with the assistance of the people at STOU. I have met people who are talented, motivated, and sincere. I will never forget my experience at STOU and hope to honor the people I have met with the work that I do when I return to Alaska.

I especially want to recognize Anne, Tuck, Nednepa, Nun, and Jum when I say goodbye. They were especially valuable to me in their communication, humor, and motivation.

Tomorrow I will work on my e-learning presentation for Non-Formal Education and Wednesday we will be visiting some schools that are using technology. On Thursday afternoon I will give a presentation on e-learning and then we will be done. We have just under three weeks left in Thailand.

Fortune Teller at the Floating Market.

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Dog at the floating market

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Thai coffee maker at the floating market

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Some of the STOU staff who learned Word and Excel

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Bangkok Post Articles on Alaska

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

-52 in Fairbanks and Mt Augustine: Bangkok Post

In the Bangkok Post today there was a picture of my home town Fairbanks Alaska. The picture showed immaculate Conception Church and the temperature sign on Denali State Bank. The temperature was reading -52. It is a strange experience to see a picture of your home town in Bangkok! I had to double take to recognize it. My first impression was just "Oh Fairbanks Winter!".

Next to the story on Alaska cold was a story of the eruption on Mt. Augustine near Homer. I guess even in Thailand Alaska has some news worth publishing. I took the story and picture around to show people in the community.

When we visited Jit's Uncle her cousin was redecorating a room, the walls were covered with pictures of Rama V. In Jit's uncle's house there was a picture wall also, it had many pictures of the King and two pictures of his kids graduating from college. It amazes me the number of pictures of Rama V that I see in Thailand.

This morning we went to the Banglapheu (?) floating market, it is near our house and we took a motor bike. We got there about 9:30 and it was very busy. There were no tourists. I can recommend going to the market on Saturday and Sunday morning, there is an amazing selection of food to eat, there are some arts and crafts to purchase, and it is a relaxed place to enjoy Thailand. Jit purchased some plants for our fish pots in front of the house.

A Monitor Lizard was near our house today, probably scared away from the park by the crowd. Jit's dad got out his sling shot and scared it away.

We had a picnic in the park in the afternoon. Juke's family and Jit's family went. It was fun and relaxing. I am still fighting a fever but I had fun anyway.

Tomorrow we go to STOU for the last time, I will teach Word in the morning and have a goodbye lunch in the afternoon. We have three more weeks before we leave. It is hard to imagine.

A confused ant


I watched a confused ant on the porch table. The ant was a large red ant carrying a piece of food. It was looking for a way off the table. It kept trying different paths but always ended up at the edge of the table, there was a plate of Star Fruit on the table and it crawled up there, looking for a path, From my perspective I could not see a way for the ant to succeed. Another ant was nearby, I was hoping to see if they were going to communicate. Jit came out with a plastic bag and put some of the Star fruit in a bag to take to her Uncle. I did not see the ants again. Posted by Picasa

Siam Paragon, watching a confused Ant, and -43.

Sometimes experiences that I did not blog about come back, I forget to mention that when I was in Ban Samkha I was shown a bag of bats. I think people gather them for food. People were kidding me when they showed me the bats.

Today we are going to Pantip Plaza to sign up Ton for a hardware class. I think that the course will include building a personal PC. We also need to pay our Phone and Electrical bills. There was a lot of traffic so Ton jumped out of the taxi and took a motorcycle to pay the electricity bill, he paid the bill and got back to us while we were still in the taxi.

People say Thai people do not read, I am not sure that is true. There are many Thai bookstores and news stands. I know though that I do not read as much, I do not have as much time to read. Getting around Bangkok takes a lot of time. When we are home people are coming over or we go visiting. There is not much solitary time. Reading is a solitary activity. At home in Alaska I read all the time.

We got a cell phone call from STOU, Monday they want more Word training, they have a list of specific questions about Word, great. It is fun to teach people who are ready to learn.

From the taxi I see a sign on a shop, Food and Drunk. I have also noticed T Shirt that and decals on the back window of some cars that say "Drunk 24 Hours."

We sign up Ton for the course at Pantip Palace and then go to pay bills and look for some bookstores, first we will pay the phone bill. We have to search for the TOT bill playing place, we then walk to Siam Paragon, the elevated walk is a nice way to move around Bangkok. By using the elevated walk I think you can go from Central World Plaza to MBK. Walking above the street is a very different experience from being at street level. At the Siam Paragon we find both of the English language bookstores, Asia Books and Kinokuniya. I find a few books to read. I want to make sure I have some good books for the flight home. I bought V.S. Naipaul's latest book, Magic Seeds and J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians. I also bought Phra Farang about an English Monk in Thailand. When we purchased the books they were put into plastic book covers, which is nice, but also a lot of work. I read in Thailand that books are respected, maybe the plastic cover is part of that respect. People might be shocked by the way that I take care of books! After exploring the Siam Paragon for awhile we go to Siam Center and eat at their food court F. The music is load and a there is a light show of flashing lights.

To me both the Siam Paragon and the Siam Center are boring. I love to look for good value and good design when I shop. I like to purchase things that solve problems and show good quality and good design. In Seattle and Anchorage there are REI stores that sell good quality clothing and outdoor equipment. When I shop at REI I can trust that I will be getting good quality and fair prices. I am not the audience for Siam Paragon. In the United States there is a huge mall in Minnesota, it is called the Mall of America. I was there for a conference and brought my daughter. She took me through every floor of the mall, it was also boring and predictable for me. I would rather look through Bopae market then go to Siam Paragon.

We take the taxi home. Nuke comes over and taught me some Thai. I also taught her some English. I have stopped trying to memorize the alphabet, I do not want to memorize the alphabet, there is not enough time to make it useful, I want to learn useful words, words I hear every day. Before I return to Thailand I will finish my Rosetta Stone CD. By the way while I was at Pantip Plaza I checked whether they had illegal copies of the Rosetta Stone Learning Thai CD, they did. I think we purchase our CD for about $300. The price at Pantip with about $7.50.


We go to Bang Su to see Jit's uncle and his family. As we were ready to go I watched a confused ant on the porch table. The ant was a large red ant carrying a piece of food. It was looking for a way off the table. It kept trying different paths but always ended up at the edge of the table, there was a plate of Star Fruit on the table and it crawled up there, looking for a path, From my perspective could not see a way for the ant to succeed. Another ant was nearby, I was hoping to see if they were going to communicate. Jit came out with a plastic bag and put some of the Star fruit in a bag to take to her Uncle. I did not see the ants again. When I was young I used to wonder if we looked like ants to God!

We walked to the small boat but the water was high, I did not want to wade through the junk so we walked back and took the motorcycle to the large boat.

On there is information about a new river boat express route that would be perfect for us, it would start from the large boat dock and go to all the different stops in Bangkok. We asked the ticket taker at Klong Toey and he did not know about it. The idea is good anyway

There are many fire crackers going off for Chinese New Year. I also see small burn barrels on the curb of the street. At first I thought it was for garbage but it is really to burn Chinese money for the dead, the money is fake.

The visit at Jit's uncle is great. Both his daughters graduated from STOU. The whole family works for the same government agency, I think it has to do with Pharmacy.

Jit's uncles place is surrounded by buildings. There is only a small narrow road into the property. Inside the buildings there is the family compound with. I think four or five traditional wooden Thai houses in excellent condition. I took pictures of the narrow road because I could not believe it.

After visiting we got a ride to Chatuchak Market to talk with the TNT shipping people. We have had excellent luck with them shipping things to Alaska. We arranged for them to come to our house to pick up things that we need to ship to Alaska. If we have any wooden things they will need to be fumigated and we should not ship any food items. Jit bought some fish for the large pots in the front of the house and also to put in to the canal.

When I got home I had a fever so I am going to sleep, take tylenol and try to get well. Monday will be a busy day so I need to me ready.

Last night Jit visited with her aunt, they talked about history and people in the community. She told Jit about how it used to be in the community, both the good and the bad. She wished she could have a large Thai house again but realizes that people are busy with work and life. She hopes that when she dies that she will not have to suffer and that she will not be a burden on people. Jit's aunt is a wonderful person, she does have a large extended family living with her, but it must not be as extended as it used to be. She has live in Mu9 all her life. She is always busy and is helping to raise her grand kids. Her two daughters are building a new house for the family right next to the old wood house. Listening to old people and documenting their memories is important. In Thailand, just like in Alaska Native cultures, people respect their elders.

Today in Fairbanks Alaska it is -43. There is always one or two very cold spells in Fairbanks. We are gaining 6 minutes a day of day light so the dark and cold will soon end.

The entrance to Jit's Uncles home


Jit's uncles place is surrounded by buildings. There is only a small narrow road into the property. Inside the buildings there is the family compound with. I think four or five traditional wooden Thai houses in excellent condition. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sewing Machine Store Chiang Mai

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Sewing Machine Store Chiang Mai


I also saw a store with an entire row of treadle sewing machines. There were at least three different manufacturers. In the glass display case at the front of the store were many parts for fixing sewing machines. There were also some old black electrical sewing machines also. I saw the shop from the Tuk Tuk and walked back to take some pictures and look around. Posted by Picasa

Old Photo Store Chiang Mai


When we were walking around the edge of the Warorot Market we found a non-digital photo store. There were some used cameras, camera cases, filters, a lot of film of different varieties, some used cameras, old Nikon Autofocus and a Leica R4, and many point and shoot cameras. I looked the shop over carefully for cool stuff, but did not find anything that I wanted to purchase. There were also examples of portrait photography. Finding the photo store was like stepping back in time, maybe 4 or 5 years ago! Posted by Picasa

On the way to Doi Inthanon

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Jit and her dad going to the hospital

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A ring in the canal for fish food


Jit's dad has anchored a rubber pipe like a shower hose, that he has made into a circle, in the canal. There is a stick in the mud that holds the circle in place. He feeds the fish by throwing the food in the circle. I asked why, the answer is that the canals have a current, by throwing the food into the circle the food does not move down the canal and the fish stay in one place. A really neat idea! Posted by Picasa

The Dog Under the House


Under Stey's house, which is over water, there is a small platform. There is a nice looking red dog that lives on the platform, he is on a short chain. Anytime anybody walks by he barks and snarls viciously, his lips curl back from his teeth, he looks like he will attack. I stopped and talked with the dog awhile; "good dog", "I am not going to hurt you", "it's OK" etc, the dog calmed down, but if I made movements he snarled again. If Stey is there he will just yell at the dog and it will stop growling, he usually sits above the dog on a deck. The dog is crazy, driven crazy. I do not know enough about dog's to help calm it down or to get it back into a civilized behavior. I see sometimes that it wags its tail when the kids walk by, I even saw it try to play once. When ever I make a movement though it growls and prepares to snap. Posted by Picasa

Honoring the King with Professional Wrestling and the White String Psychologist.

On TV last night there was an English banner scrolling headlines along the bottom of the screen, one of the headlines said "The Thai Tourism Authority is sponsoring a WWF Smackdown at Muang Thong Thani in honor of his Majesty the King's 60th Anniversary of his Ascension to the Throne!" Huh!

When we went to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang in Lampang I had an experience with a White String Psychologist. There was a lady sitting outside, as I walked past she motioned for me to come over, I sort of ignored her, but she motioned me over, the feeling was, not the words, "come here don't worry." She tied a white string around my wrist and said something about good luck. Then she showed me a small basket with money in it, a 100 Baht bill was on the top, I gave her 20 Baht. I still have the string around my wrist. When Jit saw the same lady later she was told it was her lucky time and that she should think about the lottery, Jit also got a white string. The lady is doing an excellent job using psychology to make a living selling white strings.

One thing I have noticed when riding the small boats across the river is that people help each other into and out of the boat. A helping hand is always offered, it is pretty cool.

At STOU today I taught tables and mail merge in Word . The document I saw looked fine when it was printed, but when I viewed the invisible characters they were using tabs, spaces, and graphics to create the illusion of four blocks of text. They were creating graduation announcements. I created a four cell page layout and showed them how to do mail merge. It will save an immense amount of time. Not training your staff is a huge waste of time and money. The people I have been training at STOU are eager to learn, they are excellent students, they are motivated, the problem I think is one of opportunity or supervision.

Many days a couple of Indian men ride through the village on old bikes. They are selling things. Today I was talking with one of the men and he rode past, he asked me if I wanted to buy some perfume, I said no, he said you can see if you like any, I said even if it was free I am not interested in perfume. He asked where my wife was, I said in the back, but she was busy. It was a friendly conversation. Both the Indian men are like traveling salesmen. I think they also take credit and come each day to pick up a small payment. It seems like a pretty marginal existence to me.

Next semester I will only teach two courses, Excel, using the web, and Digital Photography. I will be working as the coordinator for the AA program and also doing advising and working in the advising center. The AA program is delivered through the web and also face to face. My sabbatical will provide excellent preparation for my new responsibilities.

Tomorrow I will work on my presentation on e-learning for Non-Formal Education. Jit will be going to Pantip Plaza with Ton. Ton is going to take a class on building computers, I think, from what I understand, that he will select and buy the parts at Pantip Plaza and build a computer that he can use at home. If I understand it correctly, it sounds like a great way to learn about computers. We have promised to by Ton a computer before we go. I have made him choose the computer and features that he wants, I wanted him to show me a specific computer that he found. He discovered this course while at Pantip Plaza. I hope it works.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Things I do not like about Thailand and Community Candy Making!

Last night I finished cleaning the viruses from Nuk and Nik's computer. The Virus definitions were two years outdated and their was a Trojan Horse that was sending information like crazy. I got it all set up and configured and it seems to work OK.

Today we took the small boat across the river. During rush hour the big boat gets overloaded, people just keep piling on, the boat gets low in the water and wallows. Nobody seems to set a limit, of course the boat has not tipped over or sunk in years, but it is a marginal experience. The boat driver will even back up the stern of the boat to the pier to pick up a few extra passengers. I have watched the boat when it is fully loaded and it is very sluggish and seems to wallow. From now on, if we are traveling during rush hour, and if the tide is not too high so that it covers the path, we will take the small boat across the river. During less busy times the large boat is fine, at least as long as the driver stays in the boat. One driver still leaves the boat with the motor running and in gear pushing against the dock. He gets out and leaves the boat. If a wave came along and moved the boat it would sail away with no driver! Of course this has not happened either. Maybe it is just my cautious active imagination.

People sometimes ask me what I do not like about Thailand. I have been thinking and it would be the lack of safety. From crossing the road to riding in Taxis, to holes in the street and sidewalk, to dangling electrical wires, there is danger. I have to remind myself to pay attention wherever I go. It is an adventure, but it does cause an extra increment of anxiety.

The other thing I do not like is the alcohol abuse. Many people in Thailand drink too much. Today at lunch there were office workers eating and drinking beer. I did a count and each person probably had three beers in a one hour lunch. I know I would not be a good worker on three beers in an hour. Drinking and driving is common. I do not read about any recognition of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect. From what we know in Alaska any use of alcohol during pregnancy can cause potentially severe damage to the fetus. With the amount of drinking I see, there must be FAS and FAA in Thailand. I have experience with drinking, I drank too much for many years, I know how it harmed me and my family. I see excessive alcohol use, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism with people I know and care about! At least there should be a health education effort to educate people about alcohol abuse and fetal alcohol syndrome similar to that is given to smoking. For many people alcohol use becomes a tragedy. In the end drinking is not fun, it clouds judgment, limits emotional growth, hurts families, and destroys the health of individuals. I wished there was aggressive public education about the risk of alcohol usage.

There are a million things I love about Thailand, but I wanted to answer a question that I often get.

This morning at 8:00 in the morning there were drunk people at the Klong Toey dock, coming home there were more drunk people.

At STOU today I taught people how to use the List features of Excel and consulted on some Access problems. I am advocating for creating a simple database with sample data and getting the basic features to work before getting complicated.

When we got home the community was making candy to sell for Chinese New Years. I was told that the community will take the candy to the Klong Toey market to sell. People were gathered around working, splitting coconut, cutting banana leaves, mixing candy ingredients and teasing each other. There was a squirt gun. Jit's uncle, who is over eighty, was saying "Oh My God!" the phrase caught on, it was funny. It sounded like home. Maybe there was a missionary around, they were sure not talking about Buddha.

Jit's cousin wants to sell her Uncle's land. The land is right next to Jit's old home. I do not see how we could afford it, but her cousin wants to sell the land to help her uncle in old age. The uncle is the one who's wife died. He is a good man. We are supposed to go to a celebration to mark 100 days since her death. It will be the first weekend in February.

In the distance I heard Likay being played, I thought it was a truck selling VCD's but it was the Buddha replica being moved by barge to Bangkok. The replica started its journey from Chachoengsao. I wished I had known I would have run to the small boat dock to take some photographs.

Next Monday there will be a good by lunch at STOU. There are supposed to be 15 people there. I have met some wonderful people at STOU and will miss them. In fact, when I think about leaving Thailand to go home I think about missing the people that I have met!

What do I love about Thailand, above everything else, it is the people.

Looking across the river in Phra Pradaeng

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Phra Pradaeng Ferries


There are many different ferries, two kinds of vehicle ferries at two different locations and large passenger ferries. Large ships go up and down this river also. It is a great place to watch river activity. Posted by Picasa

Grocery Store in Phra Pradaeng


We go to a grocery store on the main street, it is smaller then a 7-11 but packed with goods floor to ceiling. There are even items hanging from nets on the ceiling. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Shopping in Phra Pradaeng

I write for my web log all morning and get caught up on reading newspapers. Tomorrow we go to STOU to teach a class on using Excel for lists.

We need to go shopping, we need all sorts of stuff, laundry soap, bread, bleach, that kind of stuff. We took the motorcycle to catch the bus. The Wat at Bangabua is having the roof replaced. All the tile is removed and then replaced with new tile, I think it is new anyway. When we were in Lamphun they were doing the same thing with their Wat. In both cases all the beautiful interior paintings and sculpture would be exposed to rain. People must be very confident about the weather, so far their confidence in warranted.

Riding the bus to Phra Pradaeng in always fun. I saw a flat bed truck unloading bags of rice at a small store. The area beside the road is filthy, it is depressing to see all the junk in the ditches and canals by the road. People are so busy, there are people selling things everywhere. Their are many motorcycle repair places, some of them are black with gas and oil. There are many interesting faces. What I see now is very different from what I saw when I first started riding the bus.

When we get to Phra Pradaeng we go up on the dike to view the river and the mega-bridge. The mega-bridge is moving quickly, they are adding the suspension pieces, soon both sides of the bridge will be joined. There were people fishing from the dike. Some people were using three rods and reels. One man caught a fish, it was pretty small, but people seem to enjoy the fishing. There were many ferries, some large passenger ferries and two different locations for vehicle ferries. One of the passenger ferries was packed with kids in school uniforms, I would guess there was over 100 kids on the ferry. I love to watch the river traffic. I can see three different Wats by the river from where we stand. Large ships pass through the traffic on the way up to Bangkok.

Phra Pradaeng is a working town, there are no tourists that I can see. I do not see any hotels, but I am sure their are working people hotels and dorms. There are many factories and shipping docks in the area. It is busy. I really like Phra Pradaeng, it is visually rich and very real.

We find a noodle shop to eat in, I order chicken noodles. There are chicken legs in the noodles as well as a chicken leg. I am picky today so I do not eat the chicken feet. If we were with guests I would have eaten the feet, but sometimes I do not want to experience new things.

People are selling lottery tickets, many people who sell lottery tickets are disabled. Some ticket sellers have three wheel vehicles that are hand powered. The rider moves a lever back and forth to power the vehicle. Other lottery sellers walk through restaurants looking for customers. The tickets are in large folding wooden boxes. Sometimes I see lottery sellers going to work carrying their wooden boxes.

I hear chimes, when the hour changes there are clock chimes that play on the loudspeaker.

We go to a grocery store on the main street, it is smaller then a 7-11 but packed with goods floor to ceiling. There are even items hanging from nets on the ceiling. We purchase five bags of goods and the people help us carry it to the curb where we catch a taxi. The taxi is nearing the end of its shift and can not take us home, the driver flags down another taxi and helps us load our bags into the new taxi. We make it home.

Phra Pradaeng is the real thing. Just standing on the street watching the people and traffic is an education on Thailand. I look forward to going to Phra Pradaeng.

Doi Inthanon, Treadle Sewing Machines, and packing for Bangkok!

Last night while thinking about the days experiences I remembered two images that I wanted to share. When we were walking around the edge of the Warorot Market we found a non-digital photo store. There were some used cameras, camera cases, filters, a lot of film of different varieties, some used cameras, old Nikon Autofocus and a Leica R4, and many point and shoot cameras. I looked the shop over carefully for cool stuff, but did not find anything that I wanted to purchase. There were also examples of portrait photography. Finding the photo store was like stepping back in time, maybe 4 or 5 years ago!

I also saw a store with an entire row of treadle sewing machines. There were at least three different manufacturers. In the glass display case at the front of the store were many parts for fixing sewing machines. There were also some old black electrical sewing machines also. I saw the shop from the Tuk Tuk and walked back to take some pictures and look around.

Last night at the Central Airport Plaza I saw a mother and young son sitting by a dedicated video game. The boy, four or five, was playing the video game. The mother was sitting near him and encouraging him. Pretty cool!

Today we are going to Doi Inthanon, the highest place in Thailand. We got up and packed the stuff we needed and then ate some street food, rice soup across from our hotel. There is no food service in the hotel. The van came and we were off.

As we were driving our of Chiang Mai I saw a used car lot with three excellent looking VW bugs, the old original kind, not the Super Beetles. Yesterday in traffic I saw an original VW Micro Bus. If you are a VW nut Thailand in a good place to explore.

There were many silver Toyota 11 passenger vans heading the same way, The Toyota vans are the standard vehicle for tours.

I saw some abandoned buildings, and like everyplace in Thailand vines were starting to engulf the building. Even the abandoned large towers at Mueng Thong Thani have vines starting to grow up the sides. Trees that are dead or dieing are also victims or the vines.

As we approached the park there was an admission gate. Some women, very persistently, were selling flowers. As we were waiting for the fee to be paid the women went from one side of the the van to the other. When the guide came back most of us bought flowers, persistence was rewarded.

The forest is very dry, here are dried leaves and grass, fire is a concern. As we traveled higher there were pine trees and Rhododendron. The Rhododendron reminded me of my grandparents home on Camano Island in Washington, they had many different kinds of Rhododendron plants.

On some of the hills there were terraces from cultivation. There were also trees growing in rows, I assume reforestation.

We finally got to the summit and there was a very ugly military installation with a large radar dome. Looking around the summit it reminded me of Murphy Dome in Fairbanks. Coming down from the summit there are two modern temples with beautiful temperate zone gardens. We stopped and explored.

The Thailand people at the summit and temples were dressed for winter with coats, hats, and even some gloves.

Driving back we stopped at a Karen village where they were weaving, had a meal at a roadside restaurant, and saw a beautiful water fall. It was a good trip and I took many pictures.

When we stopped at the Karen village we were told that the government did not have trouble controlling the Karen people because they did not plant opium or make heroin!

We had people from Switzerland, San Diego, Alaska, Korea, and Thailand on the trip.

Tomorrow we leave for home, Jit has bought MANY things! We went to a market to get some packing bags for the cloth and clothing. It will be a miracle to get all this stuff to our home in Bangkok. It will be even more of a miracle to get the stuff to Alaska!

Rooster Calls and wandering in Chiang Mai

This morning, in our hotel, I heard roosters calling, it was nice. In 2004, when we came with my daughter Margaret, we stayed at the Prince Palace Hotel. We stayed on the 16th floor. The first morning that I woke up I heard Roosters and Tuk Tuk's. I thought they piped in ambient noise to create an atmosphere of Thailand, but I was wrong, it was true!

The Toyota Yaris was released today, a pretty cool car that we will not be able to get in the USA. I would love to buy a Yaris or a Honda Jazz for Fairbanks. Anyway the slogan is Be Groovy! Sort of reminds me of the 60's.

We spent most of the day in the main Market downtown in Chiang Mai. The Warorot Market is great with all the usual food, many excellent clothes and fabrics, and flowers. I took a lot of pictures. I am very happy with my Fuji Z2. The natural light mode really works well in a street or market environment.

As we were walking around we found an excellent resteraunt. It is in a restored tea house. There is a garden with seating inside the house. We had American breakfasts. There were birds, butterflies, and peace. Just outside there was a hot busy street. The resteraunt gives a taste of what the Chiang Mai area might have been like before all the development. Jit purchased many kinds of fabric to take to Alaska. I have no idea how we will get the fabric to our home in Bangkok or back to Alaska. Jit says she has a plan!

We went to a travel agent to get tickets home, their were no flights tomorrow so we will leave on Monday morning. The sleeper train was also full. We are going to the tallest mountain in Thailand tomorrow on a tour. I am looking forward to it.

In the late afternoon we went to the Central Airport Plaza. The fourth floor is entirely IT. The selection and atmosphere are great. I can see why the Pantip Plaza in downtown Chiang Mai near the Night Market is partly empty. The atmosphere is much better at the Central Airport Plaza. I got a memory card for my camera.

Lampang, Ban Samkha, Seymour Papert, and an inspiration!

Jit's dad is wearing five amulets, but we still had to bug him to wear shoes in the garden. He is going to be fine. He will get a checkup for the next few days to check his condition.

We go to catch the train. At the Hua Lamphong station everybody stands at 6:00 PM for the Thai national anthem, this is the first time I have seen people stand for the anthem in Thailand. The railroad station is interesting and well organized. It is a great place to people watch.

Some families are sitting on the floor, there are not enough seats, they are not blocking traffic, a man in a uniform comes out and whistles for them to get up, this happens a couple times, Some Canadian girls sit down, they do not know the previous warnings, the whistling and warnings stop

We meet Stewart and get on the train, there is a Chinese man who speaks excellent English sitting with us. He is going to Lampang to check on a gold mine, I think he is the supervisor. He told me it is hard rock or underground mining. There was also a women from South Africa in our area.

The toilets are the Asian squat toilets, I just do not understand how they work, I have even looked it up on the Internet. The toilets are a mystery. I would lose everything in my pocket and get all wet if I used the toilet the way I think it should work, I must be missing something!

The train is restful to sleep on, the bed is comfortable, I get the upper bunk. We arrive in Lampang about 6:30 in the morning and go to our hotel to check in. The rooms are nice and we have breakfast. We then go to meet Suchin Petcharugsa with the Northern Region Non-formal education center. Suchin gave us a book, "Ban Samkha, Community that Learns" to explain the project in detail. The meeting was excellent. Suchin has worked with Seymour Papert and Constructivism. The project is called the Light House Project. The project was designed with and was inspired by the Constuctivism project at MIT. The recently retired head of Siam Cement is also involved. For the first time I understand the implications of micro-worlds and Logo as an educational tool. Micro-worlds are a means to start the self-actualization process of question, or idea, action, reflection, and revision. The micro-world experience of learning how to learn becomes a self-generalizing process that leads to understanding and growth. I was deeply impressed by our conversation, we were talking about the essential issues of education and community development.

In 1967, when I was a VISTA Volunteer, I learned about community development. I lived for a year in a village of 120 people in Alaska. The values and skils I learned in Shaktoolik have continued with me in my career. I use the ideas of community development in my teaching and counseling. Talking with Suchin Petcharugsa re-awakened and clarified some basic insights that have motivated my life.

We also talked about e-learning. In Thailand e-learning seems to be anything that is not face to face. I really think that the concept of e-learning tangles up and confuses many essential concepts. A few of the more fertile distinctions that are subsumed and hidden by the general e-learning concepts are: synchronous and asynchronous learning; distance and face to face learning; how course material is delivered; and the role or the instructor as facilitator or as presentor of information. For me e-learning is about using the Internet to teach and learn, it includes communication, student submission of work, teacher to student and student to student communication, content delivery and enrichment, using the Internet as a research tool, and using the Internet as a publishing tool. E-Learning is a tool, like writing and speaking, that is used to teach and learn. The Internet provides a huge array of evolving tools that can enhance the teaching process, using these tools, is the key to e-learning.

During our meeting we discussed the MIT $100 laptop project. Thailand is going to make a major commitment to implementing the project, but the issue of training, appropriate use, software, and how the laptops will be embedded in the educational process are a little murky. Dr Suchin talks about people bombing communities with their ideas and projects, it is a good analogy for top down projects.

After our meeting we got to visit an absolutely beautiful Wat. Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is over a 1000 years old. The cream color sand, the golden brown bricks, weathered wood, and form and shape of the structures are beautiful. It was sunset and we walked around and took pictures.

We went to our hotel and then took a horse buggy for dinner. The meal was good.

We go to Ban Samkha today, I was a little nervous. I am introspective and shy by nature. We drive for about 45 minutes and arrive at the community. It is beautiful. We meet the teacher Srinuan Wongtrakul and also meet with our guide and helper Thim. Both people were awesome in their presence and sparkle. We were meeting people that were a joy to get to know.

We got to see a small manufacturing building that was making dried banana snacks, sort of like fruit leather. The process was well organized and the product was very good. We also go to see a cooperative store that returns the yearly profits to the community. Many people have projects, we saw a man who was carving wood horses, Thim's family is growing Japanese pumpkins. The people are productive, creative and industrious.

The Ban Samkha community has an excellent leadership structure based on a committee of community members. The community is so organized that cow herders are expected to pick up after the cows when the are herded on the community streets. The community has created check dams in the mountains to trap water so that it can enrich the forests and also be saved for irrigation. We got to go on a long hike to see the mountains and also to see the check dams. The community is working with other communities in the vicinity to help prevent fire and to build check dams.

The community has developed an individual accounting system so people can see their financial situation. They also have a clear idea of dept in the entire community. Seeing the community debt has inspired many small money making projects sovthat people can reduce their debt. There are about 600 people registered in the community. There are about 40 students in the elementary school. The older students go to school in Lampang, but come home in the evening. Students are expected to share their ideas and talents with the community and to participate in community meetings. As we walk around the community we see no-smoking signs on many homes. There is a sign by the Wat that says Drugs and AIDS equal Death.

The teacher and school are an inspiration. I would have loved my daughter to be taught in the school. The school is built on community development and micro-world principles. Students are using lessons that are deeply embedded in and relevant to the community. There is a student teacher from Chula University at the school, she has been there for three months, she says she loves it

We went to a meeting at the Wat where two bus loads of people from Nakhow Sawan were learning about the community leadership and community projects.

There is a statue of a community hero in the village. He fought for Thailand against Burma. He had the opportunity to stay with the King but he chose to come home. It is a large statue near the library. Somehow honoring a person who returns to the community seems appropriate.

The NECTEC people are in the school helping to revise the configuration for the Internet connection. They are adding VOIP to the configuration. The students and community use the Internet for community projects.

In our walk up the mountains we see check dams, rice fields that are being used for vegetable gardens, crabs that live under rocks, a large snake skin from a poisonous snake, and a young man coming down the trail with a rifle and a traditional orange sash. He had been hunting. It was very dry in the woods, but beautiful. The women we walk with, Thim is a joy, she brings light and laughter wherever she goes. Thim is responsible for the home stay. She is also responsible for the women's check dam team and represents the community in forest fire prevention planning

We had a wonderful dinner with meat cooked over charcoal. A student joined us. She is in 11th grade and spoke English with excellent pronunciation and great spirit and confidence. She wants to be a tour guide for the community, she would also be an excellent teacher. She says she spends as much time with the teacher as she can!
There were some younger English speaking students who were also with us.

We go for a walk in the morning, the light is beautiful, there are many roosters and hens, I am surprised by how colorful and beautiful chickens can be. The bird flu is a tragedy, not only because of the human deaths, but also because chickens are an important part of community life. I hear cattle bells and roosters, watching the sun come over the mountains and seeing the mountain haze is beautiful.

Jit talks with one of the Monks, he is a little skeptical about technology. He would like to see the community focus on local problems like drinking.

We visit a old man who has knowledge about Lanna traditional healing and herbs. He has a library of very old texts on banana leaves that describes medicinal plants in the Lanna language. The school students are working with the man to translate the material to Thai and to create a computer archive to save and share the information. The Lanna herb project is an example of community based education. One student demonstrates how the Lanna script works on a computer, he points out the difficulty with one of the letters, he is in elementary school. I am impressed.

We leave the community, I will never forget my experience here. Driving from Lampang to Chiang Mai we pass a sign that points to the Lampang Volcano. I need to look this up on the Internet.

We stop at Lamphoo and visit another ancient Wat, Wat Phra That Haripunjana Lamphun. There are many people meditating at the Wat, it seems very active spiritually. There is a large school for young monks next to the Wat.

Crossing the pass between Lampang and Chiang Mai there were many, hundreds, of Spirit Houses at the summit. Going up the hill to the summit there were many stalled trucks, other trucks were crawling at less then a walking pace.

We get to Chiang Mai and check it to the "Airport Resident" a serviced apartment that Stewart arranged with a friend. It is an excellent value. All the hotel rooms in Chiang Mai are full, we are lucky to find a place to stay. We are tired and take a nap.

We go to the Night Bazaar and Pantip Plaza in downtown Chiang Mai. The Pantip Plaza is half vacant, sort of like it was in 2004. It does not have the energy of the Pantip Plaza in Bangkok. The Night Bazaar is not as interesting as it was in 2004. I think being in Thailand for a long time makes me see how superficial and touristy it is. We ate some great huge wonderful tasting corn on the cob and a fresh strawberry smoothie. Going back to our room I won a T Shirt at the Toyota dealership because I wore a red shirt. As we were walking by they wanted anybody with a red shirt to come and claim a prize, Jit heard the announcement and made me go over to win!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Emergency and Chaos!

Yesterday afternoon something bit Jit's dad in the garden. At first we thought it was a snake, but it later turned out to be a centipede. It was extremely painful!

Jit's dad put a tourniquet around his leg, used a razor blade to lance the bite and mixed a compound of leaves to put on the bite, he thought it was a snake bit because there was part of a fang looking remnant in the bite. It was a pincer though, not a fang.

There is no emergency procedure in the community, or at least nobody knew what to do. There is no 911 number or equivalent and no ambulance. I was shocked by the chaos and lack of preparation. If somebody was burned or scalded or had a compound fracture I have no idea how the community would handle it, probably try to get a taxi! In any case motorbikes took Jit's dad, Jit, and I to the dock, we took the small boat across, Jit's dad was in real pain, and we still thought it was a snake bit. We took a Taxi to the Red Cross Snake bit center, but they said for us to go to a hospital. I finally put my foot down and we flagged a van that was driving by with a red cross on it and they helped us get to Chula hospital. Jit's dad's foot was swollen and dark.

When we were in the taxi we were caught in traffic, I asked if somebody could call an ambulance or somebody to help us through traffic. Jit called many people, but it was phone tag. I have no idea why we did not go to a clinic nearer our community or in Phra Pradaeng. We finally got to the hospital and Jit's dad got help. It took six hours, because they wanted to observe Jit's dad for side effects. Jit's dad was suffering from the medication, it was like he was drunk, his brain was not altogether there. Jit's dad was complaining about losing his memory, he looked scared.

It looks like it was a millipede or centipede. I read about them in a blog about Issan, the are supposed to be very painful. His foot was swollen and very sore. It is supposed to last two or three days.

I watched an ITV soap opera in the lobby while we were waiting. There was some Rasputin Hippy terrorizing people, the drama was either terrible or funny, I am not sure which.

In the morning Jit's dad was better but we went back to the hospital for a drug test. Git drove us to the hospital, we left Jit's dad there to go to STOU. Run went to the hospital to get Jit's dad home.

Chula hospital is immense. It is a very large teaching hospital, it is more of a campus of buildings then a hospital, there was even a small 7-11 in the building. Next to Jit's dad in the emergency room was a small semi-conscious girl about 3 or 4. There were many older people who were sick and quite a few younger people with injuries. There were Christmas decorations still up Going back through Phra Pradaeng they still have the Christmas decorations going across the road.

I used Google to look up about Thailand centipedes. They are dangerous and potentially life threatening.

I think that the driving force for Internet usage could be health, then economics and government, then education, and finally fun. Kid's would probably reverse that order, but for what I have seen health information is what people ask me to look up in the community.

Our community, and maybe many others, needs some emergency procedures! It was chaos trying to get help, there was much concern, but we were pretty much on our own to get to a hospital or clinic. All that is needed is a simple step by step list of procedures and contacts.

It was another Thailand experience.

We catch the train to Lampang in five hours.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Lessons from Baan Sam Kha

Sabbatical Visit List Stephen Cysewski
I have added a link to the original information about the Wi Max community near Lampang.

A lazy Sunday, Roti's and Garden Pots

Today, Sunday, a traveling Roti vendor was wheeling a cart through the community, tooting his bike horn. We bought some without eggs. They were excellent. In the morning, after writing my blog entry I read the newspaper and watched the Seattle Seahawks win their playoff game. I was raised in the Seattle area and have been following the Seahawks for years. I only watched the fourth quarter.

Jit's dad heard a plant container salesmen from the road, they went and looked at the pots, we bought four large ones. The vendors wheeled the pots and potting soil to the house. There is a whole economic culture of trucks with loud speakers. I saw one truck, on the Bangkok side, advertising awnings for street vendors or shops.

Yesterday on the way back from Suphan Buri I saw a neglected concrete dinosaur. Next to the dinosaur were three used cars in a tent covering, one of the cars was a classic, mid 70's Alfa Romeo! When I travel I am concentrated on observing, there are many fascinating puzzles.

Jit bought the Monk who comes for morning offerings an eGo card for Internet access. Monday she will give it to him.

Next week will be busy, Monday and Tuesday we go to STOU. Tuesday night we leave for Lampang on the train. Wednesday we will tour Lampang. Thursday we will go to the Wi-Max community and stay overnight. Friday we will return to Bangkok by plane.

Jit's dad has anchored a rubber pipe like a shower hose, that he has made into a circle, in the canal. There is a stick in the mud that holds the circle in place. He feeds the fish by throwing the food in the circle. I asked why, the answer is that the canals have a current, by throwing the food into the circle the food does not move down the canal and the fish stay in one place. A really neat idea!

Today is Teacher's day, but for University faculty it is still a day of work. We took the Taxi in this morning. There was a bobble head sheep toy on the taxi dashboard. The taxi smelled a little of alcohol and the driver was not smooth. We got there OK, but I do get anxious about some of our taxi rides.

I taught Charting and Graphing today, tomorrow I was going to teach about Excel's List tools but one of the students will not be able to attend so I will teach the lesson next week. Instead I will do an introduction to Access, the essential concepts to understand and use Access. We switched next week so that I will teach from Wednesday to Friday.

Tomorrow we leave for Lampang, it will be an interesting trip.