Daily Archives: June 17, 2005

Earth, Wind, and Fever

“Hey honey. Did you feel it?”


“Did you feel the quake?”

“What quake?”

“It’s a five something magnitude in Yucaipa. Our building was swaying here in Santa Ana.”

“Really? I missed that.”

“You didn’t feel it?”


I’m just not that sensitive to earthquakes. After all, Thailand is not known for its earthquakes, but tropical storms and monsoons, occasional typhoons, and, until recently, tsunami.

You may have heard on the news that Southern California had a moderate 5.3 4.9 magnitude earthquake.

Instead of at work on the 34th floor high rise in Downtown Los Angeles, riding the earthly wave along with my coworkers, I was at home on the 2nd floor of my apartment building in Long Beach with body aches, and splitting headaches that come and go with the low fever.

I didn’t feel a darn thing here.

I later checked with my coworkers who said they definitely felt it up there on the 34th floor. I would have freaked out.

When I was growing up in Bangkok, the closest thing to an earthquake is a really big truck speeding down Soi Langsuan when I was in the classroom on the 3rd floor at Mater Dei. Yes, I said “speeding” in Soi Langsuan. It was that long ago.

Thailand lucks out when it comes to major natural disasters. We are not on the earthquake zones like Japan or Indonesia. We do not get constant beatings from typhoons like Japan and the Philippines, or flooding like Bangladesh. We do not have snow storm.

All we have are tropical storms, monsoons, and the ever punishing heat.

When I was growing up, rain storms were the scariest thing in the world. Our house was once surrounded by ton son, pine trees that are really tall with fine needles. When the winds kicked up, we could see the pines bowing to the wind willow-like. At night, backlit by city lights and occasional lightning, these giants were quite scary.

Thunders were loud and frightening. At school we would scream in almost perfect unison after really loud thunder. When we were older, we would laugh when the same screams rose up from the building where the younglings were. During rainy season, whenever we sat by a drain of any kind during recess and lunch break, we would stealthily stuffing the drains, including the main storm drains which surround the school field, with empty plastic bags or scrap paper. Yes, we were trying to get the school to flood so we may have the following day off.

Usually, school is closed if either the main storm drains start to flood, or the school pond overflow. We couldn’t do anything to make the pond overflow, so we stuck with the drains.

Considering our age, that was mischievous. Considering our intention, that was anarchy. I’d go with mischievous. 🙂

Being in the city, we couldn’t fathom the effect of what monsoon and tropical storms would do to people outside. To us, it was a major inconvenience. Traffic would be stuck for hours on end. Streets would be flooded, and some of us would have to wade the dirty water home. Electricity may be out for hours. But on the flipside, out there in the countryside, floods wiped out crops. Trees were fallen. Farmers lost their orchards. People died.

Once I realized that I had it better than a lot of people—same as how fortunate I am to have all my limbs and a good life—I stopped complaining about the rain. (But that didn’t stop us from stuffing the drains though. Hahah!)

I know what to expect from a storm. Can’t say the same with an earthquake.

As I said, give me monsoons over earthquakes any day. I have been here for 11 years. Fortunately, I have only felt 2 strong earthquakes so far. First was Northridge quake. (Who in Southern California didn’t feel THAT??). Second one was a few years ago, the quake in the desert that shook a train off track. We only felt a few jolts that woke us up. It wasn’t a rolling quake like Northridge. Nonetheless, I’m still not used to it. I don’t have the sensitivity to feel if that was an earthquake unless it is obvious like the two I have felt so far.

Besides, I’d rather prefer a tropical storm or a monsoon over earthquake. I’d rather be in a high rise, watching the storm comes through with all the grandeur of thunders and lightning, than sitting around wondering if and when the earthquake is going to hit.

Struggling with a Thai killer

Hi folks,

It’s been really busy over here in Chiang Mai. The lab team is burning the midnight oil to finish a project in time, with 12-16 hour workdays for the last couple of weeks. We’re trying to work out a quick and accurate method of identifying endemic diseases in Northern Thailand and its surrounding areas. Lethal when acting together with AIDS, which is a frequent cause of death in Thailand, especially in this area.


Today is the first day I work with live HIV-infected blood from AIDS patients. You know what that means: a tiny hole in the glove, a slight bruise on the skin, and I’d become a statistic. I’ll try not to. It’d be kinda difficult to explain my folks back at home how I got AIDS in Thailand. Through lab experiments? Who would believe that, lol. 😀

Anyway, just wanted to give you a little background on why my blog entries are now less frequent than usual.

You got this far in the blog, and the reward for your patience is a useful advice: when you want to say “sleep” in Thai, use “noon lap” ( นอน หลับ ), and not the other way around! I know, you might be thinking: “How could anyone mess that up, it’s a no-brainer!” but it’s easier than you’d think! I did it a couple times already, to the amusement of my friends here. Worse yet is the poor Thai (!) guy who gave a presentation about the benefits of a newly developed drug. He wanted to say “it should be taken before going to sleep”. Instead, when he switched the words, he ended up saying something that would rather fit a Viagra-commercial. 😛

Another one: when you ask someone whether they are finished (with whatever they were doing), you should deviate from the English usage (Finished yet?). In Thai, saying เสร็จ รึเปล่า (set reu plao?) is something you don’t want to use outside your bedroom. Trust me. 😉 It’s much better if you include the action as well, such as กิน เสร็จ รึเปล่า (Gin set reu plao: finished eating yet?)

Okay, that’s it for today. If you’d like to know the exact meaning of the two misused phrases, ask your close Thai friend, or email me. Also, feel free to use the Comments section to share similar “language traps” with the rest of us.

Good night…