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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiangmai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Flying Cattle Class for Xmas?

Are you going back to visit the relatives this Xmas-New Year? Are you flying business class? If not, are you likely to suffer from the Economy Class syndrome? Are you about to be struck down?
Getting right down to tin-tacks, the Economy Class Syndrome is just a fancy title for a Deep Vein Thrombosis, or put even more simply, a blood clot in a deep vein in the legs. We shorten this to DVT because we medicos like acronyms, and what’s more they’re easier to spell than the long names.
Now what has to be properly understood is that the Economy Class Syndrome (or DVT as I shall refer to it from now on) is not something that is confined to air travel, and to the rear half of the plane in particular. DVT’s occur in many places, including in hospitals in the post operative period. In fact, the latest figures from Australia would indicate that 50 percent of people who have orthopedic surgery are in the running to get a DVT. Even 20 percent of general surgery patients are in line for this condition.
And this gets me back to my protection against DVT. This is in the form of daily medication, prescribed for me by the new generation’s hope for salvation, the young Dr. Jonathan Corness, a new breed medico about whom I am very proud - but I digress. Dr. Jonathan prescribed one of the oldest medications in the world for me - Aspirin. So why would this up-to-the-minute medico prescribe something as old hat as Aspirin? Quite simply, because it works!
In therapeutic doses to stop headaches and relieve arthritis, we are looking at something between 300-600 mg four times a day for most people and Aspirin works well here; however, at that dosage you run the risk of upsetting your stomach, to actual bleeding and ulceration. There are also people who show allergic reactions to Aspirin, from asthma right the way through to anaphylactic shock and death! Yes, this is potent medicine, even if it is as old as the hills and available at your friendly local convenience store.
However, there are other conditions for which Aspirin is the drug of choice, and not in the big doses either. We are talking here of 100 mg doses taken once a day only. This way the chances of allergy/asthma and gastric bleeding are greatly reduced. What the Aspirin does is work on the aggregation of platelets. This is where the red blood cells sort of form into clumps and these become clots and are the start of the Deep Vein Thromboses (DVT’s). And this is what happens in the Economy Class Syndrome, if you are unlucky.
Now medical science has found that by taking 100 mg of Aspirin daily you lower your chances of heart attack, something much higher on my personal risk table than Economy Class Syndrome. You see, clotting can occur in many areas of the body, and a clot in the coronary arteries can be extremely life threatening. And life shortening! And yet so easily avoided, with one little tablet every day. You can buy baby Aspirin, but I used “Cardiprin” - this is more expensive, but comes in a push-through calendar pack, which gets me to remember to take it better than just a bottle of tablets on the breakfast table.
Now getting back to flying, the secret to health in the air is purely to maintain good circulation and avoid dehydration. To maintain circulation to the lower legs you should get up and walk around the plane once every hour. Simple. Dehydration is easy to fix - drink more water, not more alcohol! That’s it!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Even though the fashion for platform soles died out many years ago in the west, they still seem to wear them in Thailand. Is this because they are old stock and cheap, or is there another reason that I am missing. High heels are great, but platforms - no! My very loving girl doesn’t wear them.
Observant Oliver
Dear Observant Oliver,
If you were really observant you would have noticed a few other characteristics of Thai women. The first is, that although they are very loving, they are also very short. If you have found a tall one, it might be worthwhile checking the nether regions, Petal. Platforms are then very logical for shorter people. First they can now reach the ground while sitting on their motorcycles at the traffic lights and second, it makes it easier to whisper in the new boyfriend’s ears “I love you, teerak. Buy me house!” Of course everyone is the same height lying down, that’s why Thai girls don’t wear their shoes to bed.

Dear Hillary,
Every week there seems to be another tale of woe as yet another Brit gets ripped off by some girl from the bar. There’s plenty of information available, books have been written about it, your cartoonist gets inspiration from it and yet they still come in and get fleeced. Isn’t there some way we could stop these guys from getting burned. Maybe if you published the 10 commandments for newcomers it would help, surely?
Helpful Harry
Dear Helpful Harry,
You are quite right that there have been books and cartoons portraying the plight of first-timers to Thailand, but you are not correct by inferring that it is only the Brits. You can add to the Brits all the nationalities with fair skins (farangs) and full wallets. And that gets rid of 50 percent of the Brits immediately, after failing the wallet test and getting labeled as ‘Cheap Charlies’. However, the reason that these first-timers fall under the spell of the chrome polers is obvious, and stems from their relationships with the women in their homelands. The newbie can be seen going from bar to bar until one of the “Hello sexy man, sit down please” girls manages to trap her prey, after due estimation of the worth of the wallet, of course. In the western societies, you will not find beautiful women who appear to completely dote on the man as if he is the one person she has waited all her life for (just as she did last week with the newbie from the Netherlands and she will do next week with the first-timer from Finland). These bar girls are playing a role, at which they all deserve an Oscar (best supporting actress) every week. The sad part is the fact that the vacationing males forget that this is play-acting and begin to believe it. If the holidaymaker wants to have some fun, this is the place, no doubt, but if you are looking for a wife, you won’t find your life’s partner in a beer bar. As I have said before, you don’t go to a hardware shop to buy cheese!

Dear Hillary,
I’m in a terrible amount of trouble. You see, I finally succumbed to the advances of a Thai woman, who I would have described as lovely and nice until quite recently. We saw each other for a few months, traveled about a bit, and generally had a comfortable time together. She never asked me to support her ailing mother or the village buffalo, and I thought she also enjoyed our relationship. Then I broke it off as it became a little bit tiresome and she began to get a bit demanding. Well, Hillary, that’s when it happened. She’s threatening to go to my house and tell my wife! Can you imagine the nerve? She’s just as guilty as me. What should I do? What is it with these women? They make themselves so available and are so charming, then try to destroy a person’s life!
Desperate and no longer,
Hot in the North
Dear No Longer Hot in the North,
As you say, the nerve of the little hussy! In this type of situation the only form of defense is to attack, my Petal. Do not take this lying down - in fact it has been this lying down routine of yours that brought all this trouble on your poor innocent head to begin with. Retaliate! Threaten to tell her pimp that she has been hiding her real income from him! You will be able to find her pimp by asking any of the motorcycle taxi riders in your area - they all know each other. I do imagine that you have been paying her a monthly stipend. Of course it is difficult to feel really sorry for you. You call yourself “Hot in the North”, but I think it was the “fire down below” that was making the decisions for you! You brought all this on your head by starting the relationship in the first place, and then sealed your fate by breaking off the relationship. Silly Boy! Since she was a ‘part-time’ companion, she did not have any real expectation, other than financial, as you began to find out. The best you can do now is strike a deal with her - and it will be a financial one - and stay away from temptation.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

The lens makes all the difference

Would you pay 2,000 baht for a camera, and 10,000 baht for the lens? Sounds stupid, I know, but I would. When you boil everything down to basics, the lens is the final arbiter of the final image, not the camera.
Just what is a camera? Sounds too simple, but in actual fact, no matter what you pay for a camera, the basics are all the same. There is a light-tight box with film or an electronic sensor plate in it, and there is a piece of glass at the front that can be used to focus images onto the sensor. The rest is fancy stuff to work out exposures, but the simple light through glass to sensor is the same for every camera. Digital or film, makes no difference. It’s just the same.
One of the questions professional photographers get asked is, “What lens would you use to shoot a (insert the subject)?” However, the lens depends upon many factors, and the subject being shot is only one of them!
In some instances, you can almost get the identical looking shot of the subject with a 28 mm lens, a 50 mm or a 135 mm. By now you are saying, why have all these different lenses if the shots look all the same? The essential word here was “almost” the same. There will be tell-tale differences and it is these differences that make or break your photographs.
Right then, let’s get down to some examples. You are on a tropical beach and you want the blue skies over the sea type of picture. Unfortunately, the sky is only pale blue. What to do? The lens to use to increase the blue colour of the sky is the widest angle lens you have in the bag. How does this work? Simple, you are taking an enormous area of sky with the wide angle and compressing it into the small 35 mm negative or electronic sensor. Compressing all that sky increases the depth of the colour and makes it more blue than it really was!
Another example, you have just bought a car and want to send a photo of it to your relatives at home. You want them to be jealous. You want it to appear as imposing as possible. What to do? Leave the wide angle lens on and get down low and close to the car. Look through the viewfinder and the car suddenly looms large and powerful above you. The closer you get, the more it looms above you. Click! It is in the bag and on its way to impress the folks back home.
This time you want to take a photograph of your house. Unfortunately there is a rubbish dump at the back, and no matter what angle you take it from there are piles of rubbish in the background. This one is even easier to get over. Use a long lens (135 mm and upwards) and take the shot. With the short depth of field available with the longer lenses, the rubbish dump will turn into a nice blurry, soft, out of focus background, and no one will ever know you are living in Soi Garbage.
What about a nice close up of your favorite painting you bought? Another “genuine” Sunflowers by Van Gogh. Will you use a close-up lens, the wide angle setting on the zoom lens? No, you should use the telephoto long lens and stand back. If you go in close with the wide angle you will get distortions at the edges and strange shadows across the canvas because you physically get in the way of the light. With the long lens there is less distortion and the light will fall evenly across the picture.
Mind you, there are times when the subject being shot does dictate the lens you would use. Let me assure you that when photographing rampaging tigers I would use the longest lens in the world. A close up lens to photograph its dental work would not be my idea of fun!
So there you are, think about the effect you want, as well as the subject matter when deciding what lens to choose.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Fawlty Finances, part 2

After a decade in which the concept of the ‘mass affluent’ became the buzz words in the ‘retail strategy’ for quite a number of banks - many of whom then began to boast of offering a more specialised service for this ‘category’ of people - most clients of upmarket banks now ‘find themselves talking to a call centre if they’re not careful’ according to one senior private banking analyst. Just as investors, sucked in by the bull markets of the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, started to think that these halcyon conditions could prevail indefinitely, private banks’ business strategies increasingly centred on what had become the banking Holy Grail - portfolio management. High Street banks set up wealth management divisions and clients’ capital was placed in ‘buy and hold’ equity funds (which were then somewhat neglected) and balanced portfolios without the need to invest heavily in genuine market expertise - according to London-based private client specialist, Michael Maslinski.
Maslinski goes on to say, ‘As long as these banks could keep slicing, say, 1.00% a year from clients’ equity portfolios, they were happy. The markets would keep going up, and their profits would too. The economic basis of the industry was based on that simple fact. The attraction of the equity market strategy for banks was compelling. To take just one telling example: in a six-month period between late 1997 and mid-1998 the German Neuer Market - the country’s high-tech bourse - put on 1,200 points, a staggering amount. Around the world, developed markets were performing similarly. For a private bank, such increases translated into instant, no-brainer profits and allowed them to extend their largesse to individuals far further down the wealth scale than they had dealt with before. Banks did not have to offer real, impartial, investment expertise and could push clients into in-house investment funds or easily selected best of breed funds instead.’
In other words, private banking wasn’t really very private at all. As long as equity markets were doing well, all clients money could simply be invested by the banks into equities irrespective of their risk and liquidity appetites - unfortunately this state of affairs cannot prevail indefinitely and the result was some very disappointed clients, some major damage to banking reputations and a recognition that private banking needed to be more akin to the bespoke Absolute Return Portfolios managed by such companies as Miton Optimal.
Regular readers of this column know that I have been harping on about debt for some time now. This has now been confirmed, yet again, by a poll conducted by (the agency set up in 2005 to provide advice and support to people coping with credit issues and to help the public understand Individual Voluntary Agreements with creditors). More than a third of all people surveyed are also more worried about debt than terrorism, healthcare or the environment. And around one in ten people said personal debt was the single most important issue facing the UK. 80% said that they believed that unsecured loans are too easy to obtain, while two thirds believe that it is also too easy to become insolvent. Personal insolvencies in England and Wales rose 4.2% in the latest quarter compared to the same period of the year before, government figures have shown and bankruptcies were up 7.7% on the same period of 2006. “The relationship between debt and income in Britain is now roughly at a 160% ratio, which is the highest it has ever been in our history, and the highest in the developed world, and that’s partly a product of the deregulation of credit,” according to Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable, who obviously also shares our concerns.
Further support comes from other managers. Much to our horror, we’ve found someone who’s more miserable about all of this than ourselves - no I’m not talking about Marc Faber with whom we regularly vie for the title of the most pessimistic economic analyst in Thailand, but a new frontrunner in the maudlin stakes - Blue Planet Worldwide Financials Investment Trust manager Ken Murray has announced that the financial markets are entering the worst banking crisis in decades and the stock market is set to fall by another 20 percent.
Actually that only ranks him alongside us as we have already made both of those claims but at least it’s getting cosier here in the smelly stuff with more and more new arrivals by the day.
Specifically, Ken Murray warns liquidity issues are causing continuing problems in the money markets and that banks are increasingly unwilling to lend to other banks, especially ones that they perceive to be risky - “We are entering one of the greatest banking crises in decades. The credit cycle has turned, bad debts are soaring, banks will go bust and stock markets will fall much further. People need to be told the truth as opposed to being spoon fed palliative words.”
I wish that we’d put it like that! And I wish that we’d said that the “conveyor belt of death” - loans drawn down with cash going out and being replaced by highly illiquid, poor quality assets - will “suck the liquidity” out of investment banks and fill their balance sheets with bad debts, with “one or more of them becoming insolvent in the near future.”
We remain worried, very worried about the individual, local and global social and economic impact and don’t see any happy ending to this story. Putting it simply, someone sometime is going to want their money back and when they can’t get it then there is going to be a problem - a very large problem.
It’s always been a great time to be rich and to our mind capital preservation and growth demand highly skilled personal service befitting someone’s life savings, however much the amount in question is. Rather than segmenting the market, we’d like to think it’s a great time for anyone to have means at their disposal to take control over their financial future and achieve levels of security and fulfilment that should be widely available. But maybe we’re old-fashioned in that respect?

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

What the world needs now, is love sweet love

A friend and I have been trading insults recently. Not to each other, you understand. It’s just that he has been forwarding a little cache of impolite comments, allegedly made by the famous and I have been occasionally offering quotes from others, which seem witty and spontaneous. Actually I suspect that the best quotes are carefully honed and a brilliant actor or speaker can make them seem off the cuff.
Winston Churchill was famous for many things and also for adding insult to injury and since he was so opinionated and powerful I can believe many of his ruder comments. When called a drunk by a lady he replied, “Well madam, tomorrow I shall be sober but you alas will still be ugly’. Not charitable since even he – had he wished, but he didn’t- might have avoided alcohol. She could hardly be blamed for her looks. We lesser mortals seldom say exactly what we mean so I doubt whether you will echo Groucho Marx when you go to a party this festive season that is not especially exhilarating. Leaving one such event he reputedly said, ‘I’ve had many a delightful evening, unfortunately this was not one of them’. You may think it, of course.
Such comments often come from a tongue loosened by alcohol. And over consumption we know is a cause of great evils, domestic abuse, lethal accidents on the road and at work, ruined lives and businesses. But I must confess that if I have one ‘vice’ then enjoying a drink is it. But thanks to this month’s otherwise welcome election, it has been a drier month than usual, with the added ‘dry’ weekend on the 14th, 15th and 16th as well as the actual period of voting. It caught many people on the hop, including bar and restaurant owners who were far from amused by no less than seven days in December during which many were closed or saw profits slump.
The same ‘insulting’ friend had arranged what turned out to be a delightful Thai dinner at The Green Mill, on the first Saturday in question. Confirming some details he found that the manager had not yet heard of the ban on alcohol but was later told that regretfully they could neither sell nor serve it for fear of breaking the law. The food was delicious but I must say that a glass of wine or beer would have enhanced the pleasure.
Thais among others often eat their meal dry, especially casual ones, and follow it with plenty of water. We farangs tend to sip whatever is on offer as part of the meal and I think this slows down the eating and improves the digestion. That’s my excuse anyway.
Perhaps its part of my Scottish ancestry (not that this is anything to boast about – they are a dour lot in my opinion) but like our fine Prime Minister Gordon Brown I have a puritan streak with only that one ‘vice’ (well two on Sundays – it’s such a boring day!). I’ve never smoked (should anyone need a cure for smoking as part of a new year resolution I have an infallible one), never even considered the mildest drug and never gambled, even disapproving of it.
But an indulgence of wine or a decent Scotch (I knew they had one redeeming feature) it has to be. So I’m happy that those dry days are over and hope that the outcome of the election is a period of stability for Thailand, along with the increased notion of national unity which His Majesty the King appealed for. Let’s hope that the incoming government realizes that it is not only Thais who want this, but that the vast majority of farangs who visit and live here wish the country nothing but peace, prosperity and harmony.
On what is regarded by many people as a ‘special’ day may I end up by quoting a wonderful comment that I came across the other day and which is attributed to the Lord Buddha. It is very simple but profound: ‘There is no crime like hate’. Not being trained in philosophy I won’t pontificate on it but I have it carefully written on a book mark so I see it afresh every day and I find it more relevant each time I glance at it.
How wonderful it would be if we lived in a world where true hatred was absent and animosity never spilled into conflict, and where divisions of race and ethnicity and religion did not produce anger, bloodshed, torture and killing. I guess few of us can subscribe totally to that anymore than we can always love our neighbor (except in The Love of Siam, of course). But a little more love would certainly help the world go round a lot more smoothly. Yes, I’ll drink to that.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
National Treasure: Book of Secrets: US Action/Adventure – In this follow up to the box-office hit National Treasure, treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) once again sets out on a global quest to unearth hidden history and treasures. When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben’s great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s death. Determined to prove his ancestor’s innocence, Ben follows a chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America, on the trail of some of the world’s most treasured secrets.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: US Animation/Comedy/Family – After years of exposure on TV, the tiny trio makes their unimpressive live action big-screen debut in this family comedy about the singing chipmunks. The reviews pretty much agree that it’s mediocre and immediately forgettable: the characters are underwhelming in their appeal, and lack the charm of their previous television incarnations. And, though cutely rendered, the film suffers from a surfeit of potty humor and rehashed kids’ movie formula. Mixed or average reviews.
I Am Legend: US Action/Drama – Will Smith as a brilliant scientist responsible for releasing a virus that apparently cured cancer but then went on to kill billions of people as well, and proved unstoppable and incurable. Somehow immune, he is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. He spends his time trying to make contact with other survivors, working on a cure to the virus using his blood, and killing vampires. There are some fantastically eerie sequences of an empty New York City covered with weeds that I find spooky and haunting. I understand the weeds were trucked in from Florida. And that’s only a part of the extremely complicated logistics involved: New York City cooperated in the filming by closing several blocks of Fifth Avenue and Washington Square Park at night and on weekends, between September 2006 and April 2007. One reviewer notes: For a few weeks, every New York traffic report seemed to end: “And Fifth Avenue/lower Manhattan/Times Square is closed off for the Will Smith movie.”
It was worth it, in my opinion. I think the first two-thirds is fascinating and a great movie, with a superb Will Smith, surprising in the depth and the range of his acting; then it degenerates into a typical zombie flick. But, after all, that was the story they had. See it, for Will Smith and for the technological marvels of a dead and overgrown New York City, with lions hunting deer on Fifth Avenue! Generally favorable reviews.
The Warlords: Hong Kong Action/War – A heroic tale of the breakdown of the friendship between three blood brothers when one kills another to steal his wife, and the third seeks revenge. Starring Jet Li and Andy Lau, it’s one of the most solid Chinese films I’ve seen in some time. I thought it beautifully photographed and directed, with fine performances, a wide sweeping story. Seems to be taking China by storm, and becoming a hit in many parts of Asia. Unfortunately, here it’s in a dreadful Thai-dubbed version only.
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass: US/UK Adventure/Fantasy — In a parallel universe, a young girl journeys to the far North to save her best friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by a mysterious and evil organization. The film is a grand, rich fantasy, beautifully done, remarkably detailed. I was enchanted and quite captivated by it. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista, a Thai-dubbed version only. English at Airport Plaza.
Pong Lang Amazing Theatre: Thai Low Comedy – A down-on-his-luck theatre owner tries to rescue his old and haunted theater from oblivion with one last show. Crude and crass, involving much breaking of wind and defecation.
Scheduled for
Thu. Dec. 27

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem: US Action/Sci-Fi – In this sequel to the hit Alien vs. Predator , the warring monsters, alien and predator race, descend on an American Midwestern town to begin their battle on earth once again. The unsuspecting residents caught in the middle must band together for any chance of survival.
Konbai The Movie: Thai Romance/Comedy – Usual low-class Thai comedy with the usual stars, mostly from television.
Yen Pe Le Semakute: Thai Low Comedy/Action – With Jaturong Mokjok. Though the film is directed by Poj Arnon, responsible for the groundbreaking and award-winning Bangkok Love Story, this is a far cry from that excellent film. This is just an ordinary very low-class Thai comedy with well-known television and movie stars.
. . . and looking forward to Thursday January 3
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: US Thriller/Drama – with Johnny Depp in the Stephen Sondheim musical, directed by Tim Burton. In my opinion, the original work is one of the best musicals ever. Generally favorable reviews.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

The Secondhand Salad

When my father retired, he moved from Fargo, North Dakota to Scottsdale, Arizona, trading six months of 100 below zero for eight months of 100 above. He’d say, “No problem. It’s a dry heat.” Right. Fire is a dry heat. After a few months there, Dad stated his feelings succinctly: “I know it’s a furnace, the car seat burns my ass, I can fry an egg on the pavement, but no matter how hot it gets, I know I’ll never have to shovel the heat.”

This giant water bug salad is a perfect complement to the secondhand salad.
Besides possessing a major funny bone, Dad had an over-developed heart of gold. Though not a textbook philanthropist, if you were with him, whatever he had, you had it, too. He took great care of his friends and gave constantly in innumerable and creative ways. His final, forever girlfriend Maryanne decided to move near him in Scottsdale; she visited and purchased a condo very similar to the one she had owned up north. He helped her strip her home, pack it up and ship it south, then during the weeks it took Maryanne to wrap up her life in Minnesota, Dad returned to Arizona and clandestinely unwrapped her goods. When she finally arrived in her new home town, he picked her up at the airport and took her to her supposedly empty condo. Maryanne walked in the door to find her new condo furnished exactly the way it had been in Minnesota - all pictures on the wall, all clothes in the drawers and a fully-stocked fridge. Someday I hope to do that for someone.
It was tradition for Dad throw smashing holiday parties and invite friends or strangers who didn’t have family in town. While preparing Christmas Day Dinner Party Number Two following Christmas Eve Dinner Party Number One, he decided to reuse and recycle the salad from the night before. Though several fresh ingredients had been added, the guests somehow discovered it was indeed a secondhand salad. The verbal abuse was non-stop, especially since most guests remembered a song I’d sung in the past:
The ballad of the salad of the bad café
Will stick to your mind.
The salad of the bad café sticks to your throat.
An experience in eatin’ is awaitin’ for you,
If you’re really lucky, you might live through it,
Keep away from the salad of the bad café.
As I stared disbelief at a yellow lettuce leaf
A worm crawled up my spoon
That brown little thing I thought was an olive
It started to move…
I doubt if anyone ate the salad, but only tormented it by adding other ingredients from their plates: bones, baked potato skins, cigarette butts and even a few coins “so the salad is worth something.”
After the guests had gone, we conceive of a fitting third-life for the secondhand salad. Why not send it to the most persistent abuser of the lot, the very deserving and very vocal guest, Mark Hegle? We dump the remains in a bag and package it in a box. The next day on my way out of town, I locate a large metal mailbox, but the swing-down door will not swing back up once I have deposited the box of abundant remains. With concerted effort and package demolition, I close the mailbox, which now refuses to open again. I feel bad as I watch several elderly retirees attempt unsuccessfully to pry open the mailbox.
A week later, a postman delivers a crushed bundle of unrecognizable material, hermetically sealed in a sturdy plastic bag, which Mark’s daughter brings to him and sets in his lap. Innocently he opens the bag... I can not imagine what revolting aberration would germinate from lettuce, mandarin oranges, purple cabbage, cheese bits, bones, potato skins, cigarette butts and coins trapped in a 300-degree mailbox for days before being transported throughout federal buildings in a toxic waste container. I’m surprised he survived the smell. In Mark’s own words, “I was totally disgusted. I couldn’t imagine what horrible people would send anything like this through the mail, and then… Oh, my God! It’s the salad!” I haven’t heard from Mark for several years.

Doc English The Language Doctor: Encouraging your child to speak in English at home

Welcome back! This week we look at ways of encouraging your child to speak using English at home. Often this is very hard because the child may be surrounded by Thai speakers and there may be no communicative need for them to speak in English. Your child may be shy about speaking in English and they may also be afraid of making mistakes when they talk. It’s possible that your child may not have fully developed their communication strategies, or they may simply not have enough knowledge of vocabulary or grammar to help them form the words sentences they need to communicate.
If you are having problems encouraging your child to speak in English at home, your child’s teacher is probably encountering similar problems at school. Schools encourage students to speak in English in various ways. Some are effective in the short term, yet others actually discourage children from enjoying English in the long run and do not respect children as individuals, with individual rights and needs.
I have found that many international and bilingual schools have language policies that forbid their students speaking Thai, both inside and outside of the classroom. Students are told that they must speak in English ‘at all times’. These ‘immersion’ type language policies appear to work with very young children, but in the long term they are ineffective, counter-productive even. This is because as children grow older, they become far more independent and self (intrinsically) motivated. They see that language in society is a matter of personal choice and that no government on earth should dictate what language members of its population ‘should’ or ‘should not’ speak. Children are not going to speak in English ‘just because you tell them to’.
Such language policies are also ineffective because they create an impression that perhaps speaking Thai (or another foreign language) is somehow ‘wrong’ and that speaking English is ‘right’. Of course we should respect all languages. But how can parents do this and encourage children to speak in English at the same time? For starters, you can create your own ‘Language Agreement’ with your children at home. Agree the details together and pin it up on the wall. Let your child see that you respect all languages, but that you would like them to receive equal practise in the target languages to become truly bilingual. Discuss how learning English might make your child’s life even better. Even younger children will recognise that English can be useful for ‘making new friends’, ‘using the computer’ or ‘reading and listening to new stories’. Smart kids will realise that it will be useful in the future for further studies, or ‘getting a job’. The Language Agreement can include Targets. For example, if your child reaches a certain level in English, then they will receive a reward as part of the Agreement.
If you want your children to be bilingual in Thai and English, you should yourself start learning Thai! If you are Thai, start learning English! If you are studying a second language at the same time as your child, you will be more able to teach them effectively and you will also be more sympathetic to their needs. If you are too lazy to learn Thai, don’t expect your children to feel any different to the prospect of learning English! Learning a language can be easy and enjoyable. There’s no excuse! From an early age, we humans never lose the ability to learn a new language.
So, now we have laid the groundwork and agreed the rules, how can we create a communicative need for your child to speak in English at home? Well, you could first establish an ‘English Time’; a time during which everyone has to speak English (10-20 minutes a day will do). A good opportunity could be around the dinner table, or in the car on the way to school. You could make a game of it, with prizes for the winner, or rewards at the end of the game. The loser could even do the washing up! Create a different topic of conversation every day, or simply talk about the day’s events. With young learners, you could play ‘eye-spy’ in the car, or play ‘Simon Says’, e.g. ‘Simon Says ‘Don’t eat with your knife!’
As well as English time, you could create ‘English Zones’ around the home and garden. These are areas where you expect your children to speak English at all times, such as the lounge when you are all together. Make these areas comfortable and attractive. For younger children, these could become areas for ‘role-play’. For older children, you could provide a ‘chill out’ zone with books, music, magazines in English. Do not punish your children if they fail to speak English on your command, just offer them the choice to speak English or not and provide rewards if they do. Remember that they need opportunities to practise foreign languages too. Provide plenty of praise and if necessary, a points system, or a ‘currency’ children can exchange for a reward, or cash in for books, writing materials and stationery.
That’s all for now folks! Next week we will continue to look at more speaking and listening activities you can carry out with your children. Remember, you can send your questions or suggestions to me via the Pattaya Mail, or you can email me at [email protected] Hope to hear from you soon!

Welcome to Chiang Mai: By Elena Edwards

Buying decorative antiques for your new home

Elena Edwards
Once you are settled into your new home, wonderful way to individualise your living space is to include antique and vintage objects and even a few pieces of old furniture as part of your interior design concept. Whilst this can prove to be an expensive hobby in the West, here in Chiang Mai it’s still possible to buy decorative and genuine antiques at a reasonable price. Hill Tribe textiles and silverware, Burmese embroidered wall hangings, lacquered boxes and containers, ceramics with beautiful celadon glazes, fine antique Buddhist wood carvings and bronzes, all these can be used to create a magical blend of East and West in the home without spending all your savings!
The history of the Northern Thai, (Lanna) region, is too complicated to explain fully in one article; suffice it to say that in the main, the artefacts of this area, particularly those relating to Buddhism, tend to be a broad mixture of Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Laotian and Chinese styles, resulting in objects which have a very strong impact when placed in a room setting.
In spite of our having sworn to never, ever, buy another antique, two of our first purchases after we arrived in Chiang Mai were a fascinating large, fully costumed wooden puppet, around 50 years old, and a Burmese embroidered wall hanging, also antique, both of which look stunning in our new home.
We have been told that, as a great number of Thai antiques have, sadly, been exported to the West, most Chiang Mai dealers now source their stock from the border areas, from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, and even from China, resulting in a very interesting mix of styles and materials. A word of warning, however, in that not all that looks old is old, although it is not too difficult, on close inspection, to determine whether an item is a very good copy or is a genuine antique.
I don’t have a serious problem with copies, provided they are not sold as antiques, and are of good quality. For example, there are several kilns in the Chiang Mai area producing celadon glazed ceramic wares, the best of which are modelled on Song Dynasty (11th-12th century) Chinese celadon pieces. Celadon ceramics are traditional in this area; these examples have superb glazes and can be bought for very little money. Perhaps it is best to avoid the tourist pieces, however!
Should you feel you need an image of the Buddha for your home, it is quite possible to buy an antique example, crafted either in wood or in bronze. Most Thai Buddha images are carved wood, with gesso,(a type of plaster coating), paint and coloured glass applied as decoration. We have seen various 19th and 20th century examples, the faces of these images are usually smiling, peaceful and beautiful. The position of the image can be standing, seated or reclining. Bronze examples are more rare, usually seated, and tend to be of the Burmese Mandalay (late 18th – early 20th century) style and period. A small, (approximately 10 inches) 19th century example with rubbed gilt finish was sold recently for 900 baht, a great deal less than it would have fetched in the West! You may also see pairs of seated carved wood monks, with robes finished in orange/red lacquer. These are traditionally placed either side of the Buddha image itself, and stylistically are of Burmese origin. Again, the faces are particularly fine.
If you are interested in furniture, watch out for the wonderful Thai lacquered cabinets, decorated with amazingly fine Buddhist designs in gold. These were originally made for wealthy Buddhist lay people to keep sutras safe from damage and were often gifted to a nearby monastery on the owner’s death. They are, however, expensive if genuinely old.
Heavily carved antique Burmese furniture may also be available, if you like the style. If your visa requires you to visit Mae Sai every 90 days, allow a little time to inspect the antique and décor shops just inside the Thai border. Although the majority of pieces are of recent manufacture, it is possible to pick up a genuine old piece at a good price.
There are unfortunately fewer shops selling genuinely old items in Chiang Mai itself than there were 20 years ago, and rather more selling copies, but interesting pieces can be found in several locations.
The Ban Tawai shops mainly cater for trade export buyers, but there are antiques to be found, particularly furniture. Some of the companies who operate in that area are now bringing in Chinese furniture, mostly country style, but the majority of these pieces do seem to be copies made from old wood. Inspection of the undersides and the insides of drawers, etc, should show you which are old and which are not. Bright new wood does not occur on antique pieces, even when they have undergone restoration! Also, pieces of this type tend to be comparatively expensive. At the night market in Chiang Mai, on the second and third floors of the large indoor mall, there are a number of shops, several of which sell very interesting antiques, the best of which are the Buddha images. Two of the shops also stock African tribal artefacts and Middle Eastern rugs.
Several shops are to be found in the Tapae Gate area; a large shop lower down on Tapae Road towards the night market sells Thai Hill tribe hangings, some Chinese porcelain and jades, Persian rugs, and other interesting items. I’m sure there must be shops I haven’t found yet— but half the fun of furnishing your new home is to get out there and search for yourself!
This article is published courtesy of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” information folder, available as an email attachment from [email protected]