Monthly Archives: October 2005

Baby talk

I flew over to Chicago last week and have been spending time with family. This trip has given me the opportunity to get to know my new cousin, the 18 month old daughter of my first cousin. The baby looks a lot like my older brother did when he was a baby. I’m sure that is part of the reason that my parents are so enamored with her and treat her like she is their own grandchild. Her true grandparents are half a world away in Bangkok.
My cousin and his wife are both from Thailand and both have been living in Chicago for about 6 to 7 years. They speak Thai at home, but my baby cousin watches a lot of children’s tv in english. She babbles incoherently (at least not coherent to any adults), but seems to understand almost everything we say to her in Thai. Granted, usually we say the same stuff to her every day: Do you want to go outside and play? Do you want to eat yet? Are you thirsty? Do you need to go to the bathroom? In resonse to each question she either nods her head and says mmm, or shakes her head. The way she says mmm, I think, is very Thai. The words that she does speak now include mum, papa, bu (grandfather), and maa (come). She also said oui the other day. I think I taught her how to say ah (aunt), but it could have been one of the random sounds that come out of her mouth. Last weekend we went apple picking and by the end of the day she was saying ple (as in the second syllable of apple).
One thing that I have often heard about babies that are born in America to parents who don’t speak English at home is that they are slower to start talking. My dad said that my brother didn’t start speaking until he was 2 years old. But at the same time, he was reading simple words by the time he was 3 (he learned this through watching sesame street). One of my dad’s friends used to look after my brother during the day and was surprised when my brother, at the age of 3, would shout out exit when he saw the exit sign on the highway and he would also shout out the numbers on the balls when my dad’s friend took shots playing pool. (note to self, do not ask a Thai man to babysit …he will end up taking baby to pool hall). My dad told me that my brother had a photographic memory…it’s no wonder that I grew up with performance anxiety issues.
As for me, I don’t know when I started speaking but I do know that my early words were as much in English as they were in Thai- perhaps even more English than Thai. When I was a baby, my parents had been in the US for a few years and my dad had gone through a lot of struggle with his English. I think he wanted to make sure that his kids didn’t suffer the same embarassment of not understanding and not being understood by people in the US. So, he spoke to us mostly in English and my brother and I certainly spoke only English to each other. I know other Thai-American children whose parents only spoke to them in Thai. As they started school, it didn’t take long for them to pick up English.
My cousin’s wife commented that out of the three kids in my family, I speak the best Thai (probably because I spent a few years living in Thailand when I finished school). She said that my brother can’t speak Thai at all. However, she was surprised when my brother was playing with the baby and said ja-ae (peek-a-boo).
I’m really curious to see how my baby cousin’s language skills develop. At the moment, she is mostly exposed to Thai speaking people. She doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to speak; she seems content communicating in other ways. When she wants to go outside and play, she’ll pick up our coats and bring them over to us. When she wants something, she points to it and makes an mmm sound. If you ask her, do you want to go to see mum? she’ll nod and say mum. If you ask her do you miss grandpa, she’ll nod and say bu. So she is communicating in her own way but doesn’t seem upset about not being able to express herself more. With English, when she watches TV she’ll copy the body movements she sees on tv, like touching her toes or clapping, but she doesn’t seem interested in trying to say the words she hears. She is starting to babble more, so I guess it isn’t long before she starts saying new words.

Ramadan-The Muslims Fasting Month

Every year in the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, known as Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, smoking and other sensual pleasures from dawn to dusk. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal, and is resumed the next morning.

In Malay, fasting is known as Puasa and breaking fast is Buka Puasa. It is compulsory for all Muslims who are mentally and physically fit, past the age of puberty, in a settled situation (not traveling), and are sure that fasting is unlikely to cause real physical or mental injury.

The fast is performed to obey God’s command with an aim to inculcate discipline, humbleness and self-restraint, to experience what the poor and destitute feel, and to develop the noble habit of generosity.

The beginning of the Islamic lunar months depends on the actual sighting of the new moon. Thus Ramadan begins on a different day each year. This year, it began on the 5 October.

In Malaysia, Ramadan month offers a chance for the people including Chinese and other races to sample some of the very best of Malay cooking as it has become a Ramadan tradition for many housewives or hawkers to make cakes, puddings, and special savoury dishes and sell them at roadside stalls for the daily breaking of the fast. With more and more Malay women now in the workforce with little time to prepare the elaborate Malaysian cuisine after work, the number of stalls have mushroomed.

In Betong, the stalls start selling at about three o’clock in the afternoon. They sell rather simple and economic food, mostly regional dishes rather than traditional Malay delicacies. I do miss the traditional Malay cooking like Ayam Percik (marinated chicken skewered and grilled), Dodol (a gooey coconut fudge), Rendang (creamy, rich and thick beef or chicken curry), ketupat (rice cakes boiled in palm-leaf wrappings) and Lemang (rice cooked in bamboo).

There are not many stalls in Betong as most of the people here lead a very simple life and normally prepare their own food at home. Besides, the Chinese and Thai here rarely take Malay food. The fact that almost every evening is raining also affects the sale of the food!

The roadside stalls

Some of the stalls

Take aways

National Police Day

13 October is National Police Day. The Royal Thai Police in different parts of the country celebrate this auspicious occasion in their various ways. This year, Betong Police Station celebrated the occasion in a more community friendly manner.

The opening ceremony started early in the morning in front of Betong Police Station. The district officer, community and religious leaders were invited to attend the ceremony. The ceremony included speech by the Chief Police and the Mayor of Betong, paying respect to the king and queen, presentation of badges to the promoted police officers, pledge of royalty and short inspection of the troop.

In his speech, the Betong Chief Police said that the police officers must work in accordance with the Policy of the Royal Thai Police. He also stressed the importance of police-community cooperation to support effective action through a spirit of collaboration, which includes participation of the private sector, the community and the public at large in the activity of crime-solving.

There was a Monks prayer session after the ceremony. Other activities held in conjunction with the Police Day included a football match and essay writing competition entitled “Expected qualities of a good Police” and “What people expect police to do” which would be opened to the public.

Speech by Mayor/Prayer ceremony

In the evening, there was “buka puasa” (fast breaking) dinner. Before breaking the fast, the muslims had their prayer in a hall besides the police station. In order to take pictures for my blog, as usual, I had to “sacrifice”🙂 my “image” and “elegancy” and got wet running through the rains to the praying hall!

I was a little wary as this is my first time so close to the muslims praying. During the prayer session, I found them changed their postures every two or three minutes and were in good order…sat, bowed, stood, hands up, hands closed…. The whole praying session took about 15 minutes.

After the prayer, some of them used the natural rain water to bathe their hands and feet. Though it was raining heavily in the evening, the temporary tent was still crowded with more than 230 muslim guests, all males!

In Thailand, image is important, teacher normally “behaves” as a teacher and officer “behaves” as an officer. Besides the Mayor and I :), I hardly find anyone in this town that can be both high and down to earth. Tonite, as the police have to be on duties and there were only a few helpers, I saw the “less words, more works” new Chief Police arranging the tables and chairs…

Praying time

Praying/Washing legs and hands after prayer

Dinner in the rain/Simple meal

More Pictures of the Temple Fair

Some people say that the temple fair in Samut Prakan was the first of its kind in Thailand. Not sure if that is true but I have seen records that date it back a hundred years or so. Most of the city is affected by the fair. The whole of the parade ground, riverfront and the two main roads running through the city have stalls. At about 4.30 p.m. theses two roads are closed to traffic and more sellers move in to set up their stalls in the middle of the road. These pictures were taken at about that time on the road running past the city pillar.

This is probably a good time to go to the fair as there isn’t so many people. Most of the crowds will come in the evening or weekends. Though the last few evenings it has rained a lot. I have probably taken just over 1000 pictures so far. Most of them are food pictures! But there are fairground games to play too. I will try and get a better variety for you.

But, it is the food stalls that draw my attention. So many delights to try. And many of them from not around these parts. Judging by some of the signs, they have come far. But, there are some locals which I recognize. A few are parents of my students as they seem to know my name.

If you get bored with the fair on this side of the river, you can pay 3 baht to catch a ferry to the other side of the river. You will find there quite a few more fairground attractions and food stalls. I will show you some pictures from that side later.

1980:Return To Paradise:part 5

Big Dave organized a short fishing trip out into Patong Bay. We all crawled into the small boat, about 12 of us, along with cases of provisions and slowly motored toward the Kalim end of the bay where the big coral reefs were just a short snorkling distance below the sea and no Scuba gear would be necessary.

The reefs were prolific with multi-colored fish and corals. Giant sea fans were many, almost as many as the beautiful yellow tang fish that looked like they were puckered up for a kiss!

It didn’t take long for ALL of the women on board to begin feeling woozy and sick. We motored to the south end of the bay, about 4 clicks from SeaView bungalow and dropped off all the women and Capt Som of the Thai police who’d joined us that day.

Naturally the women took ALL of the food, leaving us only the Mekhong and Singha, but we managed somehow to continue fishing and snorkling around the bay for several quick hours, not noticing that Capt Som had lit a small signal fire and made a bamboo whistle that he used to summon help with his S O S peeps!

We finally came back to their side of the bay and rescued the formerly seasick, the food was all ate up by then,but so was the grog and we all piled back onto shore and finished the day at Thai Garden restaurant, happily reliving the various big moments over and over in our minds, the fish we caught become bigger with each telling!

Nok had cut his had from the fishing hand-line, but it wasnt too bad, the Mekhong he gulped down eased the pain and it really was a BIG fish at that!

Dao cooked it up “thai style” and we all enjoyed the meal, another successful day in Paradise…

Capt Som taught us a few Thai folk songs and the day was complete,,,

too be continued…