Daily Archives: February 9, 2005

Uniforms, poverty, and how to change the world

One thing that is noticeable in Thailand is how many people wear uniforms. Businesses of all kinds have uniforms, from the typical suit and tie apparel (YUK!) common to business throughout the world, to hotel and restaurant staff, to motorbike taxi and other transportation workers, to security, police and government workers, et cetera. The robes of Buddhist monks, novices and nuns can certainly be considered a type of uniform, as well. But the uniforms seen most often in Thailand are the ones worn by students of all levels, from the kindergartens to the universities.

Throughout my life, I have mostly detested the idea of uniforms, as I think they can suppress the ability to freely express oneself. Had I been forced to wear a uniform in school, I surely would have defaced it, or worse. However, the Thais, like many Asian people and contrary to many in the West, value a sense of community and belonging more than a need to express one’s individuality. This is a generalization, of course, but I’m hardly the first to make note of it. The Thais do like to look good in their uniforms, and they do. A Thai phrase which is very common is เรียบร้อย “RiapRoy”, meaning “polite and well-mannered”, “all set”, “everything in order”, “tidy”, and so on. In a songthiaw in Suphanburi, a sign read that a student riding without a uniform is not RiapRoy, and will therefore be charged full price for the ride.

One positive aspect of uniforms is that they put people on an equal footing, at least theoretically. It’s difficult to tell whether a student comes from a poor or rich background, without telltale signs like iPod headphones hangout out of the shirt pocket or expensive handbags or something. When you view a group of uniformed students who are laughing and smiling, it’s easy to miss the fact that some of them may have come from exceedingly poor backgrounds or have had or are having difficult family and personal situations. However, it is precisely the people from the poorest backgrounds that stand to benefit the most from receiving a decent education. Poverty in Thailand, as in anywhere else in the world, is a cycle which can be broken by the proper education of competent, committed students.

I read the books by Phra Peter Pannapadipo about two years ago. He is the (now former) English monk who gained some fame after his first book Phra Farang came out. His books can be ordered through thaihypermarket.com or you still find them at Asia Books. Two of them are set to re-released by a different publisher later this year. Peter has taken off the robes of monk, at least temporarily, and is now known by his name from pre-monk days, Peter Robinson. He directs a charity which gives help to students, which is explained both in the above-mentioned book and in the book Little Angels. I thought the charity sounded very worthwhile, so I gave a donation last year.

I have now spent three nights in Nakhon Sawan, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet Peter Robinson, as well as some of the students. The program, the Students’ Education Trust, really is amazing, and much care is taken to make sure that the funds donated do go to help those who both need it and show signs of making the most use of it. I highly recommend anyone reading this to consider making a donation of any amount, as you will then be contributing to making Thailand a better place and changing the lives of some of its people for the better. More information can be found at thaistudentcharity.org.

Newsletter 01

[b]This is a private newsletter for members only.[/b]

I just want to say a big thank you first to everyone for sharing your thoughts and stories in your blogs. We are at present receiving an average of 270 unique visitors per day which I think is very good for a new web site. We only did a soft launch last month while we were recruiting new bloggers. This month we will promote the blogs a lot more with banner advertising on our other web sites. We have also launched a competition to win a Thai watch. If this goes well we will then continue with monthly competitions. The questions for each competition will be based on a “fact about Thailand” which they can learn from reading the blogs. We are hoping to have 500 unique visitors a day by the end of the month and maybe as much as a 1000 in a few months.

I am still learning about blogging techniques for this program. But, I will try and share with you some tips over the coming months. If you have anything to add then please click on “comment”.

(1) It is possible to have a unique front page for each of the main blogs. It will take time to adjust them. I will probably change mine first (at least the colour scheme) and then help others to do so too.

(2) The main bloggers can edit their timestamp by posting blogs in the past or even in the future. Personally I find this very useful and have posted quite a few in the past to bridge the gap when I wasn’t blogging. At the moment, to visitors, it looks like I am blogging every day. Actually, that is not true. I wrote most of the blogs last weekend and on Monday I posted 7 days worth of blogs in one go. Each blog I assigned a different day and time to appear. So, the whole thing was done automatically. Saves a lot of time.

From that point of view you shouldn’t post a very long blog in one go. Split it up into two or three parts. When you post them just change the date for each one so they will appear three days in a row. Doing it that way will bring people back more often to read your blogs.

(3) It is possible to either link to other pictures on the internet or upload pictures from your hard disk to our server. However, with the latter there seems to be a permission problem and the pictures don’t show. As soon as I spot that I have changed the permission in the blog so the picture can be seen.

Seeker was asking about picture wrap. The code looks like this:


You put that inside the code for the picture. Click on “preview” tos ee if it worked. You can either have that “left” or “right”. Don’t worry if you are having problems. If I am online and spot a problem I can go in and clean it up. We are all learning at the moment so don’t worry about it.


p.s. You can only see these newsletters if you are logged in. You will find them in the category called “Members Only” on the right hand side.

Chinese Street Opera

Last night I went to watch some Chinese Opera down by the City Pillar. They had built the stage right in the middle of one of the side streets blocking all the traffic. It was an amazing site and extremely loud. I still feel deafened now. There were only a dozen people in the audience. Mainly older Chinese people though some families too.

The whole scene was amazingly colourful. The stage was lit up with florescent tubes and spotlights – so bright that I didn’t even need a flash despite it being late at night. I had no idea what was going on as it was all in Chinese. I could only guess that there was some kind of love triangle and also a dispute that involved some fighting.

Someone told me that the next night will be a different story. I think I will go and take another look, though this time I will take some ear plugs! I will also take my video camera so that you can get a better idea of what it was like. The sound is just as amazing as the scenary and actors.

You can see more pictures in my Photo Album.