Daily Archives: July 27, 2005

Thai School Snackshop

Someone recently sent me an e-mail saying how much they liked seeing my Thai Food Blogs. They said it was whetting their appetite for coming to Thailand. However, they were interested to see what kind of food we served at school. They wanted to know if they would enjoy the food if they were a Thai student. The answer to that is probably “yes”. I certainly would have liked these meals instead of the food we were served at school when I was a kid. What I will do today, is first give you a sampling of snackshop food. Then, over the coming week, I will take pictures each day of the lunchtime meal.

The first one here on the left is spaghetti with a meat (ham) sauce. Well, that is what they said, but the spaghetti looked suspiciously like the Thai noodles called mee-grob. This is a crsipy noodle, which I like to eat with “rat-na”. On the right is another of my favourites, quail eggs. They sell four of these eggs for 5 baht. In fact, all of the food on this page is sold in the school snack shop for 5 baht a dish.

Of course I like to eat bread, but the one on the left is a bit too sweet for me. The thick bread is toasted with a generous spreading of butter. This is then dipped into a bowl of sugar! On the right is basically dry noodles but everyone calls it by its brandname of “mama”.

The final two pictures are a good example of how much Thai children like fried food. On the left you have a variety of different meats deep fried on a stick. For example, fish, pork, crab and chicken. On the right you can see our version of KFC at a fraction of the price!

Paradigm Shift

And then she said, “food land and hospital for the villagers”

I was in Surin, Thailand, helping out as a facilitator for an English and Environment camp organised by Dekrakpha, a NGO(Non-Governmental Organisation) whose cause is forest conservation. Rin, who uttered the above line that blew me away, works as an activist trying to solve the problems of overflooding caused by dams.

My group comprised a good mix of individuals. Some of my team mates were English and Communication students at Ubon University and signed up for this camp because they wanted to practice their English. Others might not be able to speak English fluently. However, since they were working in various NGOs, they had a profound understanding of the environmental issues in their country, which we hoped to tap upon.

We were in the midst of an activity which required our participants to imagine them as members of a village intent on settling down in a forested area. They would then need to brainstorm how they would want to develop this plot of land. We distributed sheets of paper to our groups so that they could crystallise their discussion points and reflect their ideas on their sheet.

engrossed in discussion

Now, being an urban kid, I had a slightly different view of forests. I learnt about the value of forests during my geography lessons but I kinda arrogantly dismissed it as paying lip service. I thought it a harsh foregone conclusion that forests must give way to industrialization if people wish to lead a better life. Who would be silly enough to reject the appeals of material comforts?

Evidently, this was not a view shared by my Thai friends as they didn’t even seem to consider the option of demolishing the entire forest to make way for their needs. There was an unspoken unanimous agreement that they would only demolish the land area they would need to build their homes and farm land. In fact, Pi Jeab, who incidentally owns a Master degree in Agriculture, explicitly suggested that the community keep the north-west portion of the forest intact because it would protect the village from the seasonal monsoon winds, which blow from that particular direction.

Perhaps, it isn’t too hard to withstand the lure of urbanization because as Rin astutely pointed out, the forest is a treasure chest of food and medicine. Nonetheless, I was impressed with how they didn’t disdainfully disregard the forest as a primitive, unsophisticated source. Instead of blindly pandering towards modern remedies, I sensed their grounded attitude as they understood the value of medicinal herbs and appreciated how its importance doesn’t just diminish with the emergence of new technologies. That was something that touched me.

crystallization of various talents!

Observing them excitedly mark out their prospective homes on the “map”, I also noticed their reverence for the forest. They drew a spirit house on the edge of the forest and explained to me how the guardian spirits inside would protect the forest and the village inhabitants. Again, this was an unanimous decision as no one questioned the need for this spirit house. It was simply something that had to be constructed.

This was yet another refreshing perspective because my Thai friends exhibited a desire of paying tribute and showing gratitude towards their provider. This was humility and maturity at its best. Most people would have unrestrainedly exploited whatever they desired and taken their blessings for granted. Some might even justify their greed by thinking that the forest owes them.

I didn’t know what I would expect from this activity. But I certainly didn’t expect my Thai friends to display such a fierce conviction to preserve the forest and its advantages to mankind. Without this activity, I would never have felt the co-dependent relationship they share with nature, their love for land and their commitment to managing their forest resources responsibly. These were valuable insights an urban dweller like me would never have fathomed on my own.

I felt privileged to partake, albeit briefly, in their world and hoped that someday, I might develop this deep, abiding love for land too.

The Belief of Red Rope

Going to visit sick people both at their places or at the hospitals is something depressing although the ones who you are visiting is getting better and better but still, you have to walk pass a lot of other tortured people..

Also, going to a funeral is something unpleasant at all.

Months ago, I heard that one of my mother’s closest friends had a cancer ~ Well, she was married to one guy but never had a kid so she liked hanging out with my mum and some more friends who have kids. Right, I used to go out with them and we had a lot of fun 🙂

Since I got to study here at Triam Udom Suksa, I’ve been busy, drowned in the sea of homework and activities so I sort of stopped meeting her and going out with her for quite a big while but when I knew that she’s got cancer, I felt guilty (Because I always denied when her husband called to ask when I’m free so we all could go tour somewhere).. so I went to buy paper and color.. and drew a picture of flowers ~ as a gift and an apology to her.

One afternoon,
“Hey! Bow! Quickly.. The club already started,” shouted Phung one day.
“Alright~ Just a second ok!?”
*Ring Ring!!*
“What?! You’re kidding me..no..no..don’t lie ~ do not ever!”
It was my mum. Her friend was already dead T^T.. I could tell from her voice that she was crying loads.

I skipped club activity that day then and quickly went to the temple in order to see her for the last time before she would be put in a coffin. I arrived just in time and could watered her hand … I was shaking ..shedding tears ..couldn’t believe it.. Lots of words come in my head “I shouldn’t refuse her invitations” “I should have visited her more often when I had time.”

There were so many “I should have” and “I shouldn’t have” appearing in my head and my mind ..

At night, I was still there at the funeral for some prays ~ During that, somebody walked to me and my mum and handed us “the red ropes”. My mum grabbed it right away but I didn’t know what it was.. I was scared.. I assumed so many things about it .. I even thought it was some of her clothes’ thread ~ I denied.. then my mum stared at me and said ‘take it’.

I did and tied it around my left wrist and still wondered about it till I got home.. When I reached my home, my mum told me to keep it with something I respect so I tied it around my students’ committees’ emblem.. And mum said no more word about it.

Recently, I took a test to go to Korea to joy Asia-Pacific Youth Rally program. I was underaged so I was unqualified but I still tried and .. I got it..somehow 🙂

When I told my mum one night about it, my mum finally told me, “Last year, remember when you went to Singapore and Japan? It was after my friend’s mum funeral and I got the red rope from there..”

“Once again, you can acheive your very own dream, the dream to go abroad.. it’s after going to the funeral and getting the red rope.. so tonight, do pray to thank my mum’s friend”

Ah… Now I get it.

The red rope is the sign for goodluck, it’s actually not what Thai people believe but The Chinese instead but because most of Thai people have Chinese blood (since old times) so we do believe it, too.. and really, it’s the rope full of luck ..

Tonight, am leaving for Korea to joy the program ..wish me luck people. Although you don’t :p I know the rope will still protect me ~ because it’s a goodluck rope 🙂

P.S. I’ve got a picture of what I drew but I’ll edit later ^V^!!

London Thai Festival

Strange how one minute, I’m in the process of writing several blog entries at a time and the next, I have no idea where my time or concentration went. Anyway time to catch up.

On Sunday, 24th of July, it was that time of year again when ‘the Thai Restaurant Association and its sponsors presented London’s annual festival of Thai food and culture’. This takes place in London’s Battersea Park, for one day only every year, in which ‘over 40 stalls serve hot food, Thai drinks, souvenirs, crafts and fresh fruit and vegetables. Entertainment is provided by Thai musicians, dancers, martial artists and performers. Everything combines to bring you all the sights, sounds and flavors of Thailand’s distinctive culture.’

I was looking forward to this event since getting the flyer from the Songkran festivities, and also, because I had gone to it twice before. The first time was a few years ago which I vaguely remember. But last year, it was definitely nice because the weather was perfect for the occasion. However, I didn’t arrive with my family, instead my mother’s friend and her family took me along. I felt a little out of place without my family at such occasions.

This year, the weather proved to be the opposite of last year’s, pouring with rain instead of beaming with sunshine. I’d arrived with my parents this time and there certainly was security at the entrance. They would charge £2 entry fee per person. One guy checked my bag and said I was not allowed to take drinks inside (which peeved me) because this did not happen last year. Everything had to be bought and quite expensive at that, if considering the price in terms of Baht.

But this didn’t stop anyone from buying and enjoying the food. There were still many people who were watching the Thai classical dance performance under a small stand, listening in huddles under umbrellas to the loud music and admiring other aspects of Thai culture on display.

Skin Deep

“Beauty and the Bleach” headlines a section of today’s Los Angeles Times. It’s about how women in the Asian community are shielding themselves from the sun, and seeking refuge in cosmetic procedures to appear “whiter”.

Just another visit at the topic of skin color from Richard’s previous entry “A Black Face”.

Dark isn’t cool in Thailand. And it’s not because the influence of the Western culture. You’ll read in the article here at they mentioned a Western ideal of beauty is to blame for Asian whitening craze. It’s not. It really has been based in the Asian culture. The light skin means you’re not toiling in the sun and therefore of higher class.

Yep. White = high society = beautiful. It comes down to that.

White schmite! I’m going with the color my karma dictated which goes from what L’Oreal makeup counter calls “Honey Beige” to a little lighter than cafe mocha.

Everyone is beautiful in whatever color they’re in.