adventures in Thailand

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Paula-178; Ants-4

As you know, I’m computer phobic, techno-challenged, or as my Italian friend Katia suggested: “Techno-pigra.”  (Pigra means lazy. lol.) Anyway, last week this subject heading and about 250 words were written and “saved as draft.” Haven’t been able to recover or find the draft. Darn it! When/if it’s discovered—after this is written—you’ll get the original also.

Anyway, this post’s subject is my approximate score from one day last week. Yes, at least 178 ants were killed by me and only 4 got away. I feel like the a character in the fairy tale about the tailor who killed “7 in one blow.” Not sure if my memory serves me correctly since it’s been decades since that story has been read by me. He killed 7 flies but gained the reputation of killing 7 enemies and, thus, the giant was frightened. (Any corrections on this re-telling are welcomed.)

Also, did I report on the smashing of a Honda Civic-sized arachnid? Dianna, who’s lived here for several years, shared her description of Buick-sized spiders. But this one wasn’t as large as the one I saw during my first week here, more than a month ago. She also warned that it would create a big mess if squashed. Happy to report–blood and guts were limited.

While we’re on the subject of wildlife, yesterday there were two crabs on the lawn near the dining room/reception area. Jake said they wander over from the rice paddies, not from his duck pond. Two other “creatures from nature” were observed at the outdoor produce/meat market that opens every day on a long street at 4 p.m. The first was funny, the second disgusting from our Western perspective but delicious to some locals. OKAY–#1 was a frog leaping down the street. It had escaped from a vendor and a man chased it, picked it up and returned it to the food stand. No doubt it was part of someone’s dinner later that night. #2 was identifiable by me thanks to a previous viewing years ago on TV of a story about Australian Aborigines. One vendor had small “baggies” filled with wiggly white grubs or worms of some sort. Not sure, but think some of the Hill Tribes (ethnic minorities) fry them for protein. In the USA they’d be dipped in egg, then flour with spices, and deep fat-fried (in palm oil to make it unhealthy????).

Weather improved greatly. Jake explained by saying, “Of course it stopped raining–you finally bought high rubber boots.” Shucks, if I’d known about the cause and effect they would been purchased much earlier even though the shops were out of my correct size. It’s raining lightly now but the past two mornings have had viewable sunrises. We’ve had about 5.5  days of sun or partial sun in the past 11 or so. Best weather since my arrival in Thailand on July 26.

The house hunt continues. We start paying rent on our school house (3 bedroom home) on September 1. If it’s suitable, I hope to stay there until at least early or mid-October to help our project save money. Meanwhile, have looked at five homes so far. As a result, my criteria has developed: 1) screens on windows. 2) located in town or Mae Hee, the hamlet where the school house is and where Dianna lives as does her son’s family at Ing Doi Guest House where I’ve been staying. 3) Western-style toilet (saw one place with squat toilet (hole in floor)). Air-conditioning in bedroom would be nice but not 100% required. Rents are unbelievably low by Woodstock or NY standards: we’re paying about $210 a month for the school house, our intern’s lovely little one-bedroom home in town is about $155 a month. Of course, salaries and cost of living are low compared to USA or Europe.

Finally, living in a tourist town has advantages. This past week I’ve made 3 sets of temporary friends. The first was a friend of a friend who had lived in Poughkeepsie for nearly 30 years before IBM laid her off. She’s teaching English in Indonesia and visited Pai for two days of her two-week Thailand vacation. Her visit was the perfect excuse for my first elephant ride since 1999. Next, an Australian couple about my age crossed my path and had lunch together and coffee together at another time. Finally, two nights ago I stopped at my favorite fruit shake stand and plopped down onto the vacant stool (there are only two). By chance, the man–who was over 40, a rarity in this tourist town, was Italian. So we both enjoyed speaking his native language as we sipped our dragonfruit shake (his) and papaya/lime shake (mine). He liked speaking Italian so much that we wound up having dinner at one of my favorite restaurants owned by a friend of Jake’s and Mink’s. Her mother is Vietnamese and she owns the only Vietnamese restaurant in Pai. It was my third time there. His first time trying that cuisine. Yum.

Progress continues on the school project. The lengthy business plan (10 pages) and financial statement (20+ pages) are finished. Hopefully, they will attract a rich donor who will help us reach our goal of $250,000 so we can buy the land and build The Banyan School.

Stay tuned for the latest from Pai, Mae Hong Son Province, in northwest Thailand.





Guess where I found an ant!

This is really disgusting, so if you’re eating don’t read this now.

This a.m. when I went to brush my teeth I took out my “night guard” which is worn at night to avoid damage when grinding my teeth in my sleep. Guess what spent a the night IN MY NIGHT GUARD under an upper left molar—a big black ant.  Must have crawled in when the apparatus was taken out to make a phone call last night. YIKES. Guess I’ll have to be more careful.

On the positive side (you know me, the optimist)…the Buick-size spider that frequented my bathroom at night hasn’t re-appeared in nearly two weeks. HURRAH. Please give credit to Dianna for the description of “Buick-size spider.” When she read an earlier email describing this big brown arachnid she replied with that phrase. She also warned me if it returns and is slow enough for me to squash, watch out: guck splatters everywhere.

The sun was out for an hour this a.m. so took some photos of the view from my bungalow–tall grass in front, rice paddies and mountains with a bit mist. Will try to figure out how to add them to the blog. Meanwhile, you can let me know if you want an email with some of them.


Trapped by mud and “Audrey”

In typical government fashion, the town of Pai sent some heavy equipment to our little road on Saturday morning in order to fix the huge pot holes. Now it’s WORSE than before—truly impassable on foot unless one wants to get shoes covered in mud or worse, slip in the mud. I’m hoping that by tomorrow afternoon it will be slightly improved so I can go into town for a 5 p.m. back/shoulder massage. I had a Thai massage yesterday. Definitely massages are one of the biggest benefits of living here. My goal is to have at least two a week.

On the downside, the insects are as bad as ever. As I wrote the above paragraph a tiny ant bit me. Mosquito bites have diminished thanks to strong 24% DEET roll-on repellent. Gave up on the natural stuff. Am sitting on my bed under the mosquito netting while writing this even though it’s the afternoon.

A few days ago my laptop wouldn’t turn on. Mink, co-owner of the guest house and Jake’s wife, was going to Chiang Mai and offered to take it to the Apple outlet at a mall there. Would you believe that when she got it there everything worked fine? I think there were ants in it causing the problem. It’s not unusual to see them creeping around the keyboard.

As for “Audrey”—-remember the plant in Little Shop of Horrors? Well, Audrey’s cousins are in my bathroom. There are 3 vines that grow about 3-5 inches a day. They’ve come through the opening at the top of my bathroom wall. It would be great if they flowered, but don’t think that’ll happen.

There’s a classical guitar concert in Pai on Weds. night–an unusual event for here. I offered to babysit 4 year old Pansa so that Mink and Jake could go. But it’s likely we’ll all go instead. Should be fun. We’re hoping that Tierney, the intern from Columbia University who’s working for the Burmese Refugee Project, will join us. Tierney and I are going to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner on Monday.

Yesterday I went to the daily 4 p.m. outdoor produce market–first time. Great fun. Dozens of vendors set up on a street closed to cars (though motor bikes use it). Bought fresh cauliflower, cilantro, bananas, avocados, ginger, long string beans (15″ or more!) and mangoes. The fruit here is incredible. There were plenty of unidentifiable fruits and vegetables. Also vendors with fish, chicken and pork, some uncooked, others grilled. Lively and interesting–will take some photos of the market eventually.

In addition to the food market, there’s also a nightly outdoor market with amazing handicrafts, food stalls and not-so-amazing souvenirs. Many of the vendors are from the Hill Tribes. They sell beautiful and very colorful needlework and sewn objects–purses of all size, bags, clothing and more. I bought a lovely little multi-colored cell phone holder. There are also a number of jewelers with handmade pendants and necklaces. Plus more.

Guess that’s all for now. Feel free to tell others about the blog and comment if you’re inspired to do so.


3 M’s: Mud, Massage and Moth

Believe it or not it’s been sunny for part of the day. That has dried up some of the MUD which is everywhere. Ing Doi, the guesthouse where I’m staying, is at the end of the lane with two muddy tracks and a bit of grass in the middle. At the end of the lane the “road” (so to speak) that goes down the hill and into the village has huge potholes surrounded by mud.  I tried to buy short rubber boots in town this a.m. but they were sold out in my size. The rubber shoes just don’t make it—my feet are filthy every time I go between my bungalow and the main reception area.

At least they weren’t sold out of young coconuts–my daily treat. The coconut water is sweet and delicious. Then the young “meat” is spooned out and eaten. High in antioxidants and other good stuff.

MASSAGE is a much better topic. Went into town this a.m. for a shoulder/back massage with this wonderful person who gave me a similar massage last week. The best ones I’ve ever had in Thailand. She started with my feet and legs, despite it being a shoulder/back massage, and worked on me for about 1 1/4 hours instead of the normal hour. She used herbal oil and all for only $6!  She was asking me about the school so I inquired if she had any children. She laughed heartily and replied, “I’m a lady/boy.”  The first time I went to this massage studio I wondered if maybe she was a transexual since she’s much taller than the other women who work there and has large feet and broad shoulders. Guess my hunch was right. She must have had a great plastic surgeon because her low-cut shirts reveal lovely breasts.

Now for the last M… Upon my return from town, I entered the bungalow and found a HUGE MOTH perched on the window sill. The wind had closed the window during my absence and it was stuck inside. So I grabbed my iPad and took some photos before opening the window for its release. About 15 minutes later it flew back in through the back doors and out another window about 10 minutes later. It’s resting wingspan was at least 4 1/2 inches. It was brown with a big dark brown spot on each wing.

As for other stuff, yesterday was the Queen’s birthday, Mother’s Day and Pansa’s 4th birthday. Mink, who’s an amazing cook, made lots of food and bought a b-day cake. Neighbors and friends stopped by throughout the afternoon. If it hadn’t been raining, I would have gone into town. There were lots of booths set up near the district municipal building and I assume there were some fun activities.

My time in Chiang Mai earlier this week went well. Observing at the Chiang Mai Montessori School made me realize what a big job we have ahead of us. YIKES. So much to learn and do! They started with only 4 kids and had 10 by 2nd semester. Now, in its 2nd year they have 15 students in the 3-6 year old Childrens House and a similar number in the Toddlers group.  Hope we do as well.

That’s all for now. This blog post is longer than usual. Do you mind? Would love feedback.

4 1/2 inches


Insects & Rain

        The rain continues but not the downpour of last weekend. Guess that’s why they call it the rainy season. The Pai Tourist Office is smart–they’re calling it the Green Season. 

        With the rain comes cooler temperatures. Also a big rainbow two days ago. Unfortunately, the rain doesn’t seem to stop the mosquitoes. I’m bitten from head to toe. Giving up on my store-bought all natural repellent and trying a locally made natural repellent. If that doesn’t work, guess it means chemicals for me. Worst of all, I bought a new container of Buzz-Off from Sunflower when it was on sale this summer. But in the craziness of leaving, it never made it to Thailand.

         As for the insects—quite a variety. Tiny ants everywhere. They used to drive Dianna crazy. But I’m just learning to accept them. As long as they don’t bite. Earlier this week there was this HUGE spider in the bathroom in the middle of the night. Its body was well over an inch and with its legs, it was nearly three inches tall. YUK. The second night that it was there, I tried to kill it. But it was too fast and got away. Luckily, it hasn’t returned since then.

       There are plenty of geckos (little lizards) everywhere. But they’re not eating enough insects in my opinion.  Today the workmen who are fixing up the adjacent backpackers’ bungalows found a huge snake. According to Jake it was at least 3 feet long. Luckily, no snakes have greeted me so far. Let’s keep it that way! Haven’t seen any mice or rats either. 

        The butterflies are plentiful and beautiful. Have seen at least 6 or 8 different varieties. Also a lot of birds. Went on-line to try to identify the birds. Brought my birding binoculars. Maybe in Chiang Mai next week I can buy a Birds of Thailand  book.

         We’ve finished the business plan for the school and hope to get it off to the fundraisers in NYC this weekend. Supposedly there’s a rich man in Dubai who might make a large donation. In Shallah.

         Next post will probably be from Chiang Mai. Am returning there on Sunday so I can observe/volunteer at the Chiang Mai Montessori School next week.