Daily Archives: February 26, 2005

An English teacher in Thailand

As you can see, I’m new around here…so let me introduce myself.

I’m Pompenkroo…but you can call me Li. I am currently living in Bangkok (Well Thonburi, if you want to get all technical), where I teach English at a bilingual school. I am 28 years old, and an American of mixed heritage. My mother is an American of Jewish (both Ashkenzai and Sephardic) descent, and my father was from Trinidad and is of African, Indian (as in Curry and Bollwood…not Maize and Dances with Wolves), and Chinese descent. I’ll eventually post a picture of myself so you can see what happens when the United Nations gets together and decides to have a baby. In addition, I am a practicing Ch’an (Chinese Zen) Buddhist. I also have been dating a lovely girl for the past month, who speaks very little English. Luckly, I have been picking up Thai rather quickly…so we are able to find a way to communicate, and in that communication the words we speak are simplified to their raw, beautiful essence.

Anyway, I moved to Thailand right after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a Master’s degree in teaching English and TESOL. I am here to gain some experience teaching abroad so I can build up my resume for ESL teaching jobs back in the States…or so I thought. Now that I’ve had a few months to slide into my new life here in Thailand, I’m finding that I can see myself living here for a much longer time that I anticipated.

I don’t know what I will exactly do with this blog; however, I do know what I will not do with this blog. I will not:

1.) Write about the Sexpat/Go-Go bar scene, as I am not a fat disgusting hairy white man in my late 40’s who possesses no social skills in any cultural setting and is either a tickled pedophile or a sociopathic misogynist. That being said, I find no fault in the sex work industry, yet I think Western Sexpats can learn a lot from the conduct from the Japanese businessmen who visit such places and behave themselves.

2.) Write the “OFMG!!!! THAILAND IS SO EXOTIC AND COOL!!! WOW! BUDDHISM AND DIFFERENT CULTURAL THINGS AND STUFF!!!” blog. The last thing Thailand needs is more neo-colonialist rhetoric that paints it into a almost-fantasy-like wonderland that is just waiting to be explored (i.e. exploited) by the so-called “West.” First of all, I am a Buddhist, so the national religion doesn’t really seem all that special to me. Although, I must admit the Thai focus on ghosts and spirits does seem unusual to me…on the other hand I’m sure most Thais would find my meditative practices and Koan study to be just as weird. Secondly, when you exoticify a culture or person, you inherently alienate that persons humanity. If I do anything in this blog, I will focus more on commonalities between our cultures than differences.

So what’s left? I am sure my blog will focus on my idiosyncratic adventures and contain lots of Menippian-style satire. I might even use the F-word (no, not Farang) from time to time. So, if any of the above bothers you, then please refrain from reading my blog. Regardless, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Dos and don’ts of coming to Thailand……again

(Left): Bridge on the River Kwae (Right): Guesthouse Cuisine


Do run up the nearest hill and not go look for the sea if you see that the sea isn’t there, it will come back, it is a scientific fact.
Do get rid of that big hairy moustache, you won’t get a part on a Bollywood movie here.
Do, as a guy, ‘dress-up’ when going to a disco and not wear shorts, your hairy legs will not impress the local girls.
Do be careful when walking along a Bangkok street at night, falling down a manhole is not a memorable experience.
Do as the locals do and barge your way on to the bus, you don’t need to be stood at the bus stop all day.
Do realise that the Bridge over the River Kwai ought to be pronounced ‘Kwae’, you don’t want to inform the locals you are off to see the Bridge of the Buffalo.
Do, as a girl, not sit next to a monk on the bus, the poor fellow does not need to dash off the bus at the next stop.
Do cover up or put on repellent, allowing the mosquitoes to bite you for the fun of it, isn’t a very wise idea.
Do put on a strong sun-block on your first day at the beach, you don’t want to resemble a tomato.
Do eat out, the guesthouse cuisine is as close to original Thai food as Pizza Hut is to Italian.
Do watch a Thai movie, they aren’t as bad as you think.
Do go for a 100 baht haircut, you will be impressed by the service.

(Left): Don’t sit under coconut trees (Right): Don’t jump in the tub


Don’t bother showing your map of Bangkok to a tuk-tuk driver, he doesn’t even know where Thailand is on a world map.
Don’t jump into the big water container when taking a shower, it for water to be scooped out of, not for you to dive in to.
Don’t, as an American brag about everything American, the Thais prefer everything Japanese these days.
Don’t, when finding a dead chicken cook it up for dinner, you don’t need to come down with the Chicken fever.
Don’t walk up and down the beach bare-footed, Thailand’s creepy-crawlies are not the world’s friendliest.
Don’t go wearing one of those big farmers’ hats in Bangkok, you don’t want the locals to have a right laugh, at your expense.
Don’t complain about the hotels’ standards here in Thailand, you won’t exactly get a $15 room in your own country.
Don’t complain about Thailand’s politicians, ours aren’t exactly worth writing home about.
Don’t go popping any chemicals before entering a Bangkok disco, you don’t need to be pee-pee checked by the local police.
Don’t, when going to a disco take home a girl you have just met, you don’t want to wake up to find an empty room.
Don’t go walking across a zebra-crossing without looking both ways first, you don’t need to be the recipient of a nasty hospital bill.
Don’t go complaining about the standard of acting on Thai TV, it isn’t the actors’ fault they are that bad.
Don’t go putting a bottle to your mouth without wiping it clean first, you don’t know how many dogs have mistaken it as a small tree.
Don’t go dozing off underneath a coconut tree, you may not live to regret it.
Don’t arrive at the airport on an over-stay with no cash left, you don’t need the company of 200 cell-mates for the next few nights.
Don’t take a Khao San Road upcountry bus, you don’t need one of their villians to go through your luggage when you are asleep.
And finally, don’t feel insulted by the word Farang, it is not derogatory.

You can find more by clicking here.

Making Merit the wrong way

There is a common belief in Thailand, that you are making merit for yourself by releasing birds and turtles into the wild. The idea is that you are setting free these captured animals to be wild again. But there are two very wrong aspects of this practise.

First, the commercial aspect is so very wrong. These animals were only captured in the first place in order for people to pay money for them to be released. And how long will they be free until they wander into traps set for them? Some people argue that the turtles and birds were bred on farms and have never known freedom. So, surely they are doing them a favour? Well, not really. The animals that have never lived in the wild are not so likely to survive for long.

During the recent Buddhist holiday, park rangers seized more than 6,000 endangered birds and turtles that vendors were illegally trying to sell to people wanting to make merit. These included 5,878 small birds, mostly finches, and 433 freshwater turtles. If they had been released they would have more than likely died because they cannot live in unfamiliar environments.

My question is, where did this method of merit-making start? I eventually found this story:

In the time of the Lord Buddha, there was a temple named Chetawan Wihan which was under the charge of Saributr. One summer day, a young novice went to pay respect to Saributr as usual. The abbot noticed an abnormal sign on the novice’s face and knew immediately that the novice would die seven days later. Out of pity, he told the poor novice about this and tried to console him. The novice then asked for leave to go home to bid farewell to his parents and relatives. He promised that he would come back to Chetawan temple within seven days in order to die there.

Two events happened on his way home. First, when he passed a water-hole and tried to get some water to drink, he saw fish struggling in the mud. He felt pity on them, so he took off his robe, caught all the fish and put them in his robe. He walked to a nearby pond and freed the fish there.

Later, when the novice reached an old farm he saw three birds stuck in snares. He wanted to free them, but he couldn’t because that would mean violating the second precept of the Buddhist moral code (i.e. to abstain from stealing). So the novice just stood still looking at the birds and prayed for their safety. He concentrated in praying for a long time until there was a gust blowing in the direction where the birds were stuck. The snares shook until the wires broke and the birds flew away.

When the novice arrived home and told his relatives about his expected imminent death, they were so sad that they decided to make merit for him. They weighed the novice and prepared a quantity of rice equaling the weight of the novice. They boiled the rice and presented it to the monks. They took good care of him day and night. Surprisingly, seven days passed and the novice was still alive and healthy, so he went back to Chetawan Temple.

When Saributr saw the novice, he was very surprised as his predictions had never failed before. So he asked the novice to explain to him thoroughly what he had done in the past seven days. After hearing the account, Saributr understood that the novice’s escape from death was due to his meritorious acts done from his compassionate heart – freeing fishes, helping birds to flee and presenting boiled rice to the monks. All these merits added together were strong enough to prolong his life. That is believed to be the origin of the Buddhist tradition of freeing fish and birds that has been observed by Thais as well as other Buddhists since the ancient times.

Source: “Thaiways” Vol. 18, No. 15, 2001

Fortunately, some temples are now recognising that this method of merit-making is being abused. Many temples now ban these vendors from their grounds. However, for this practise to be stamped out completley, the Thai worshippers and foreign tourists must stop paying for birds and turtles to be released. When you next visit a Thai temple, please do not give money to these vendors. If we can all make an effort to do that, then maybe in the future no wild animas will be captured in the name of Buddhism.

Snowy Town

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I last blogged. I do really apologise for this as it has been a very busy 2 weeks for me. Life as a University student is always like this, you’ll get a period where you’re absolutely free and there are times when the work piles up on you and before you know it, you’re running out of time! This is what happened to me. It is not that I am lazy but it’s just the fixtures of due dates. From now, I only have 1 work left until the end of Easter (April). But before that, it has been absolutely packed with work! lol…… I even had to go into the University on Saturday and Sunday to work! However, it has passed me now and I’m ready to blog again.

Since Monday, the weather here has been very extreme. As meaning, it is super cold. Especially for a tropical country-born kid like myself. As a consequence, it has been snowing since that Monday when I went into town and passed Picaldilly circus. It was so beautiful! Everything everywhere now is covered with snow. I have never actually lived in an area where it snows before. Back in Melbourne, there are mountains that you can go to ski but the city itself has never experienced snow. This is because of the location. Melbourne is situated on a flat land and close to the sea which makes it more windy than other cities. I will take a picture and post it here on the weekend if I get a chance.

Today, I also received the long-waiting accounting result. If you could remember that I said only 30% of the 300 students made it through the 40% mark. For the University, this is a true disaster and to fix it, they had to keep the marks and examine it. After nearly 2 months of examination, they finally released the results. It was a breath taking moment for me as I have no idea how I went. As soon as I saw my marks, I was relieved because I was in that 30%! I actually got 68% which is considered a high mark. However, I wasn’t too satisfied with the result but I told myself, it’s better than not passing lol……. Accounting is my main subject for the course that I’m doing. It is the hardest subject and is weighted the most. If you do not study hard, you’ll definately fail. So I was very happy indeed.

It’s 20.00 here in London, it’s very cold. lol…. I think I am going to get some fish and chips from a corner ship nearby. Fish and chips is my favourite dish here. Ever since I’ve been here, I loved to go out and eat Fish and chips. In Thailand, we can make it too but they do not use cod. They use some other fish which is not cod and it doesn’t work out. I dont think English food is as good as Thai food, actually, nobody does. However, I’m here, I must eat whatever there is and if I survive the 3 years here, one main factor would probably be eating cod and chips.

I’m getting hungry now so I think I would probably leave it for today.

Bye Bye……