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Funny | Ruth Tshin

Riding up the mountain to Mae Ai

Courtesy of wikipedia

I went to the Ping River last night with my neighbours to celebrate the Loy Kratong festival in the city.  All week, neurologist pop-pop-BANG and CRACK could be heard in my neighbourhood and red sparks of homemade fireworks could be seen in empty parking lots, along with silhouettes of young people laughing and drinking.  Nawarat Bridge was a launching point for traditional white-paper lanterns and larger fireworks, while people floated kratongs off bamboo docks along the river’s edge.  On the other side of the river, we could see the steady procession of single dots of flickering candle light joining other kratongs released upstream to become a wave of twinkling lights representing hopes and prayers of the hands placing them in the water.  In the sky, paper lanterns glowed amber and bobbed like jellyfish into the darkness.

The police were on display at the edges of the bridge, perhaps in response to threats from the Red Shirts who have been commemorating the six month anniversary of the violent demonstrations in Bangkok that reverberated around the world.  Some carried hand guns, others rifles.  Curiously, I noticed some were no older than 20 years old and others looked more like grandfathers conscripted to patrol the bridges as a show of force.  Police tents were set up alongside food vendors, displaying firecrackers deemed “unsafe”, while merry-makers blew up the identical items after making sure no policemen were watching.  Within an hour of our arrival on the bridge, the sound of firecrackers intensified, the acrid smell of gunpowder blanketed us and the sky sparkled with a multitude of lights, both big and small.  Tourists and locals alike posed for photos, while helmeted police escorted the occasional driver willing to cross the rapidly crowded bridge.

Heading back to the car, we passed by a group of tourists who jumped back after carelessly exploding their firecracker right in front of their faces.  A Thai man released a lantern with a tail of lit sparklers that brushed along his girlfriend’s hair and then wrapped itself around a bridge wire.  He frantically tried to untie the sparking tail.  Another person mis-aimed a shooting firecracker and it landed directly into a crowd, causing them all to shriek and jump backwards.  All the while, the police watched disinterestedly, perhaps thinking of the beers and whiskey sodas waiting for them at home when their patrol was over.  Along the Canal Road, we drove by hordes of university students spilling out of bars and lounging along the concrete separators of the irrigation canal.  Coloured lanterns fluttered in the warm night wind.

Welcome back to Thailand.

On my way to UHDP in Mae Ai, cardiologist
I saw these Osama bin Laden mud flaps on a truck we were passing.  Haha.

Rude!

Today, abortion I went into the Fang Silver shop across the street from where I was getting a pair of keys copied.  I’d seen the store before and from afar, admired the weathered wooden building and shiny silver jewelry encased in glass.

A tiny Thai-Chinese grandma-type shuffled up to me, tiny eyes blinking behind huge, plastic-framed glasses.  To make conversation, I asked her politely, “How old is this shop?  How old are these beautiful antique necklaces?”

Well, I was either lost in translation or this woman was born rude.  “What are you?  A student?  Are you a student?  Why are you asking how old I am?  Huh?  Are you a student?” she berated me.  “Yes, these are old, all these pieces are old!  But they can be turned white (i.e. cleaned)!  Everyone can make these newer pieces and they will turn dark fast!  But these old antiques, they can be white fast!  But no one can make antiques like these anymore!”  Okaaaaay.  I didn’t even ask you.

I tried another tact.  “Could I see this anklet then, please?”  I thought if I purchased an piece of jewelry that I wanted regardless of her manner, it might appease her.

Acting as if she didn’t hear me, she kept talking in northern Thai to a woman that had appeared moments before.  Maybe she was cursing me and my ancestors, I have no idea.

“600 baht!  It’s heavy, it’s a heavy anklet!  It’s 600 baht!”  I didn’t dare say that I thought the price was outrageous.  I pointed to a more delicate one, thinking it  was less expensive.  “500 baht!  500 baht!” she barked at me.  That was it.  I smiled at her as best as I could and backed out the shop.

Grumpy old woman!

Spaghetti communications

The hot season is going to kill me.  The smoke hangs in the air all day and night, pilule and makes my skin itch, purchase my nose black and my throat itch.  Driving my motorcycle to and from the office coats my face with pollution and makes my eyes puffy.  At night, my stomach hurts from all the filth I’ve ingested during the day.  It’s bad like this all through Southeast Asia as the farmers are burning their fields and compounded by the shift in seasons from cool to hot.  I don’t usually jump for joy at the rainy season,

The evaluation was going well but everyone in the seed advisory group was glancing at their watches. It was 12:45 and Rick had already asked me three times if lunch was ready. I called Chai again, dosage
wondering what the heck happened to my well-laid plan for someone to pick up lunch for our group.

“Hey Chai,” I said, “where are you? Are you back at the centre yet?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“So is the food with you at the office?”

“Uh…what food?”

Oh no. I had a handful of hungry men to placate. I ran from the seed production plot and arrived panting at the office. Wah looked at me curiously. “What’s going on?”

“No! I’m trying to figure out what happened to the food? The lady at the restaurant said that someone already came by and took the food. I tried calling you a couple of times to see what’s going on but got no answer.”

“Huh? I already told Alap to put the food in the seed bank office. Didn’t you see it?”

I shook my head. We marched down to Alap’s house, where the guys were hanging out after eating their lunch.

“Alap? Where’s the food? Ruth and her group haven’t eaten anything yet?” Wah said sharply.

“I put it in the seed bank office, like you told me!” Alap said, looking confused. We walked over to the seed bank office, where everyone was still talking about our 3 year goals.

“Over here,” Alap said, pointing to the boxes of food sitting on top of the germination chamber. Hidden behind the taller seed drying machine. Which we had all overlooked going in and out of the office an hour ago.

Ooooooh, thanks, Alap,” I said as sweetly as possible, trying to ignore Wah laughing behind her hand.