Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My sticky keyboard issues of the last month have boiled down to one rather appropriate letter.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Language barrier

Today, on the way to the clinic, the Thai radio ran a news bulletin, which clearly included "Australia" twice. It was repeated on the way home.

Asking the driver (who's a natural Thai and Mon speaker, and has basic English) what it was, he was only able to say, "Yes, Australia. Aaah - Police. Australia. Aaah, hmm".

This was not so reassuring.

So, as soon as we got back, I put on BBC world: the Gaza pullout and Slobodan Milosevic. BBC online: extradition trial in Italy. ABC online: bombs in Bangladesh. Asia Today: reduction of Bali sentences and the sale of Telstra.

Can anyone fill me in? What happened in Australia today (that may or may not have involved the police) that was so significant as to have made it to the Thai news, but not the ABC? Sonehow I think it wasn't Telstra.

(News need not involve acutal facts).

Saturday, August 13, 2005


The noodle-soup-with-everything seller we got lunch from at the Floating Market (we asked him to leave out the liver). Behind him, barbecued chicken and buckets of black Grass Jelly for sale.

I’ve been inspired by some of the luscious foodbloggers out there. Now, I’m not going to go all gourmet on you, but please indulge me for a while.

One of the things I miss when I’m away is food. The French people here crave French food. I’m more creative.

When I was in Manila, it was lamb souvlaki. In Zambia, it was fruit cake and shortbread (it was Christmas). In London, fresh fruit that didn’t come individually shrink-wrapped and zapped with ethylene or something.

Now, it’s couscous, prawn rice paper rolls, palak paneer, gyoza, and olive & fetta sourdough bread. Specifically, it’s Timbale, Mecca Bar, Pellegrini’s, the market on Saturday mornings near my old house in Richmond (which is still my picture of “home”, even though someone else is living there…), Thy Thy (no, it’s not Thai), Crust pizza, Soulmama...

Really, I’m not quite as down as I sound. I eat noodle soup with pork crackling for lunch, I have a pomelo waiting to be peeled, I can get green curry anytime I like (despite many “mai pet!”s, it still usual sets my sinuses on fire) and the fantastically named “pad ka pao”. I spent Sunday eating awesome fish curry and helping assemble flat breads with the neighbours and 4 local kids, and regularly get fed fantastic Mon food by wonderful colleagues. I can get great tomatoes, limes, pumpkin, sticky rice with mango, fresh lychee & mint shakes and the Instant Artery Clogger “pancake” – roti bread with generous slurpings of sugar, condensed milk AND chocolate sauce.

But I still have those cravings. And, already being a blog addict, I have discovered a way to accentuate and satisfy those cravings at the same time. Introduced to the genre thanks to augustusgloop, I now am a regular visitor to several sites that rave about food, with amazing photos and a local touch that have me going, Yes, I love that shop too! If only it didn’t take several minutes to download them…

One of the things that I’m sure most people knew already and I’ve only recently caught up on is the importance of good ingredients. Now, when a visitor from Bangkok asks if I want anything, I have a list waiting that goes beyond the usual wine, cheese and chocolate (although these are all still there). With my recent additions of olive oil, a pepper grinder, garam marsala and brown sugar, I’ve been having fun.

So, in what I expect to be my only venture into the world of food blogging, here’s my recipe of the day:

Homesick Friday Night Macaroni Cheese
- well ,Thursday, but it’s a long weekend. Cooking time – about 8 minutes.

Boil water & cook macaroni (from the local minimart, with the St Bernard and puppy, and the sullen teenage daughter watching Thai soaps as she types into the register).

Heat small splash of olive oil (Tesco Lotus superstore extravaganza, Kanchanaburi) and gently fry 2 cloves of finely-chopped garlic (freebie from laughing heavily-pregnant fruit seller at the market, as I only ever buy one cluster of garlic, not a kilo like normal people).

Mix cooked macaroni with oil / garlic and grate in generous amount of Vintage Cheddar (Foodland, Sukhumvit. Didn’t survive the trip back from Bangkok so well but is still very edible). Add freshly ground black pepper (also Foodland, my regular last stop before I head for the bus).

Mix a gin & tonic and eat whilst watching pirated Sex & The City dvds. As my colleagues determinedly speaking in English would say, good appetite!

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Unwise wais

The "wai" is the guesture involving putting the hands together in a prayer position and bobbing the head, used in many Asian countries. Depending on who you listen to, it's a polite greeting, a sign of respect or a demonstration of inferiority and worship of the other. When accompanied by touching the head on the ground, it's a form of subection, used for monks, and it disturbs me when parents try to get their 3 year-old kids to do it to me.

Some of the people I see form day-to-day use it, and some do not. This can be because they are of a particular ethnic group, Christian, think that I will not recognise it or are rude. I have developed the habit, particularly as when meeting a new person (ie a patient) I cannot tell until they speak what language they will use, and although I can now say Hello in Thai, Mon and one type of Karen, I don't want to use the wrong one.

So I wai.

The other use of the wai is to Buddha images. People will wai at the"spirit houses" along the sides of roads as they pass (the houses of local deities, which are called, in a rather let's-play-a-joke-on-this-foreigner way, "nuts" - although probably not spelled like that!), and to the golden spires of temples that poke above the trees.

Today, we brought back an energetic 9 year-old boy to his home in the jungle. It was with some surprise that I saw him wai towards a spot where I've never seen anyone do it before. Looking around, his mother and I discovered the place worthy of such respect, and burst into peals of laughter.

It was the new telecommunications tower.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Piano Man

Most of you may have heard about this already. Since he hasn't been arrested in connection with the London bombings, it hasn't made it to BBC international.

It intrigues me...

Is it a fake?
Why would he do it? And how would he not say anything?

Is he autistic?
Surely he would have family, carer etc who realised he was missing?

Why was he wearing a suit?
Why was he in the water in a suit?

Perhaps it's a case for Thursday Next.

Irrelevant observation

The snails here curl the other way.

That is, horizontally. To look at the shell, its looks from above like the shells of Aussie snails do from the side.

Either way, it's still creepy when you step on one with bare feet.

Monday, August 08, 2005

More reading material

- Isn't it coming down? Simply pelting!

- Oh, this isn't real rain. You wait until July. The whole Bay of Bengal is going to pour itself on us, by installments.

I'm having one of my book frenzies at the moment. It may have been because I discovered a second-hand bookshop with excellent coffee in Bangkok last weekend, or perhaps because I'm in the house by myself.

Anyway, I just finished George Orwell's Burmese Days. It's got some wonderful passages (see above) but I'm not sure what to do with a book that's fairly insulting to Burmese people, even though overall it's against racism, colonisation and the English themselves.

Admittedly, it was written in 1934, and was probably revolutionary for its time. But now... those little incidental details stick, and make it a bit difficult to read. I'm not sure I want to bookcross it, but to discard Orwell seems wrong.

Any suggestions?

Friday, August 05, 2005

On the daily two-hour commute to work, it's pretty cool to meet an elephant now and then.
I got electrocuted yesterday.

I was unplugging my computer from the 4-days-post-brand-new power board. There was a flash of light, a loud buzz and a searing pain up my arm.

Now, this wasn't just a "zut" and a head throb, like when you hold an electric fence. this was a full second (zzzz one, one thousand zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) of the Thai mains power running through my body.

I have entry and exit wounds.

Thankfully, they're only 1.5cm apart, so it basically went directly through my finger, resulting in a shreik and frantic hopping around the lounge room. Rather like my centipede experience, really. This time, being home alone, I didn't have an audience, but given that this also means there was no-one to resuscitate me should my heart have been stunned, I've thrown out the power board.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The view from Hellfire Pass Museum, with Peace Bowl. Have now gone in daylight. Would love to go back and do the walk along the track (about 4 hours) but the logistics of this are a challenge. Posted by Picasa

Derek with part of Large Gold Object, in Vientiane.Posted by Picasa

The Large Gold Object itself. This is a temple that has been covered in gold, so requires sunscreen to visit.  Posted by Picasa

The demons that protect the "Emerald Buddha". The Buddha has different gold outfits depending on the season, and there are signs in the viewing area to tell you not to point your feet at him. This is rather unclear - as is the Lonely Planet when it says the same thing - what part of your foot is the "point"? Posted by Picasa

My hands. 20 minutes after the test where they blow up a blood pressure cuff and leave it on for a full five minutes, to see how purple you go. Posted by Picasa

The surreal blue elephants at Trat airport. (Vientiane airport appeared to receive about the same number of flights, which is odd given that it's a national capital). Posted by Picasa

And now, for a brief travel slide show. I'm being selective! This is the lovely pool at the resort at Koh Chang. I didn't actually get in it! Posted by Picasa