Vol. VII No. 28 - Tuesday
July 8 - July 14, 2008

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Chiang Mai FeMail
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Unique, original, affectionate and intelligent - the traditional Siamese cat

More fun and frolics with a Swiss Ball!



Welcome to this week’s Femail page! Many of us here now have all the time we need to look after and love our pets, so this week’s article on that very special breed of cat, the Siamese, might just encourage a few of us to go get one - or two!
We read in the UK media recently that a top examiner, marking papers for the GCSE examinations in UK schools, actually awarded a pupil, (who clearly wasn’t up to speed on his subject), marks for accurate spelling and “conveying a meaning” when the only thing he’d written on the exam paper’s page was - “**** off!”
For years we’ve been aware that the standard of education, both in the UK and in the USA, had touched bottom, but surely…The examiner himself justified his action by stating that “It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills like conveying meaning and spelling. It shows more skills than just leaving the page blank.” Right. How difficult is it to spell “**** off?” Which is exactly what the examiner, (not to mention the present Minister of Education), should be forced to do! In conversation with Thai parents and expat teachers of English in Chiang Mai, we’ve become aware that the education system here could, perhaps, be overdue for an overhaul, but then, it hasn’t had the same inordinately enormous amount of money thrown at it as has the English system! Hey, you Brits, glad to be here? You should be; over there your taxes would be paying that examiner’s inflated salary! Have a good week!

Unique, original, affectionate and intelligent - the traditional Siamese cat

Will Robinson
The beautiful and highly intelligent Siamese cat is revered and loved worldwide as one of the major breeds to have become popular, particularly in the West, over the last 200 years. In Thailand, the land of their forefathers, however, they seem to be hard to find. The breed itself originated in the West from a very small gene pool imported into Europe with great difficulty at the end of the 18th century, and is constantly in need of refreshing to improve its chances of further healthy development. If fresh genes are not regularly introduced, the genetic problems associated with inbreeding threaten the breed’s survival. The only source for such fresh and original genes is, of course, here in Thailand.
Originally, in the cat family, all other coat colours developed simultaneously around the world; however, it is thought that here in Thailand the first coat colour, tabby, mutated to black to enable the cat to hunt successfully at night. Subsequently, due to the extreme heat, up to 40 degrees Celsius in the hot season, an albino gene developed, resulting in a white-bodied cat with colour points at the nine extremities which remained cooler. When mated with black, the result was the original Royal Seal Point with dark brown, almost black points and blue eyes which indicated the existence of the albino gene. This essentially oriental breed traditionally has a thin body and no undercoat, which enables the cat to withstand high temperatures. The original Siamese cat was valued and respected everywhere for centuries, particularly in temples, where they were often venerated for their special qualities. In the present day, monks at the wats still look after and feed Siamese cats who have been abandoned by their owners, usually for financial reasons.
Unfortunately, interest amongst the Thais themselves in their unique native cat is being superseded by a fascination with expensive examples of the more exotic non-native breeds such as the Persian. Long-haired cats are highly unsuitable for Thailand’s climate, having been genetically designed to withstand low temperatures. Air-conditioning helps, as does garden shade, but the undercoat and tendency to put on weight inherent in such breeds still ensures that life is very uncomfortable for such cats.
Worldwide, the original shape of the traditional Siamese has, through rigidly applied breeding standards, become exaggerated in the extreme, producing, with the approval of cat clubs, a very thin, fine-boned and delicate version with large ears and triangular features. Some of you older readers may well feel nostalgic when remembering family Siamese cats of the original breed type, which was given the derogative nick-name of “apple-head,” and is now increasingly rare. Fears of its disappearance, however, have recently encouraged breeders and cat-lovers to recognise its value.
Thailand is now the only location in which international breeders can find and export new gene stock to improve their breeding programmes and ensure the survival of the species. Breeders here, thankfully, are beginning to reject the current breed standard and are calling for a reversion to the older type. The Thai cat associations were never impressed with the current extreme standards, and are encouraging the re-adoption of more original guidelines. Worldwide export from Thailand of original types could cause a much-needed renaissance of style in this highly important breed.
Surely it is time for cat-lovers to rally round this unique and truly Thai breed here in the Kingdom, and to protect it against the invasion of foreign, often unsuitable breeds? Those of us who keep and love cats should perhaps be supporting Thai breeders that, because they are now struggling to sell good examples of this native breed, are turning to the more expensive Persians, Himalayans, etc. Admittedly, cats with lower intelligence and curiosity levels than is normal in a Siamese may be more suitable to life in a condo, (and less trouble), but the joy of owning a demanding, affectionate and highly intelligent cat with behaviour patterns similar to those of a dog should not be underestimated! And, of course, they don’t need “walkies”! You will be rewarded with companionship and never-ending entertainment if you decide to share your home with a Siamese - or two!
In conclusion, I should mention the sterling work which is being done by the various pet charities and their volunteers here in the city to reduce the amount of unwanted animals by homing them. As well as rescuing both dogs and cats from illness and starvation, free sterilisation is being offered weekly by travelling vets and veterinary nurses that visit all districts and local wats. This essential sterilisation service, however, whilst reducing the number of unwanted and stray dogs and cats, may result in there being even fewer examples of the Siamese cat breeding naturally, thus decreasing the available gene pool. I should like to appeal to these charities to consider the unique and vital gene pool of the Siamese breed - if it dies out here it will be lost to the world. The Siamese, the Tonkinese and the Burmese - all, in spite of their names, originating in Thailand, and all closely interlinked and genetically interdependent, should surely be protected.


More fun and frolics with a Swiss Ball!

John Bailey
So, you rushed out and bought yourself a Swiss Ball, didn’t you? And you’ve been practising falling off, haven’t you? And you’ve found that inflating the darn thing was worth two aerobics classes…Right. Now, you’re sitting looking at the thing and wondering what to do next - or even which charity would benefit from its donation! “Why on earth did I buy that?” is one of the saddest sentences in the English language, and as relevant to Swiss balls as it is to a tight pair of shoes! Never mind, it will shortly become very clear that you didn’t waste your money.
Now, sit on the ball and bounce gently up and down, keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed. This is your “warm-up”. Apart from the exercises described last week, there are two basic forms of usage of the ball - sitting and lying down. LYING DOWN? Yes, both on the floor and on the ball itself. Seriously. Try this - Lie face down on the ball itself. Put your hands flat on the floor and pull yourself forward until your thighs are resting on the ball and your upper body is parallel to the floor whilst being supported by your straight arms. Now draw your knees into your chest, then push back out to your original position. The exercise you have just performed is the “crunch,” and you’ve used muscles your tummy didn’t know it had! Another useful exercise is as follows - Lie flat on your back on the floor, grip the ball between your feet and lift it up, breathing out and keeping the small of your back pressed against the floor. Now raise and lower the ball, not forgetting to breathe! Variations on these simple routines are endless, and involve many conventional movements, but because you involve the ball as well, it means that your core strength has to increase.
Think about using free weights whilst standing on the ball. That’s advanced stuff, but truly not as difficult as you may imagine. Nor is kneeling on the ball; by that time you will have formed a love-hate relation ship with the thing and you won’t be about to let it beat you, because by then you will have realised the benefits to your core strength and tummy muscles. Good fun? Yes! Hard work? Certainly! Results? You Bet!

OPINION: A message - several messages…

“Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma in May of this year and the suffering continues. The people of Burma who lost everything in this horrific storm are still without basic needs like food, clean water, shelter and clothing. There is an independent group in Chiang Mai who has been successful in collecting and sending four truckloads directly to the people who need it most and they need your help. The fifth truckload of supplies is being collected now and will leave within the next two weeks. The group is asking for donations of RICE, COOKING OIL, CHILDREN’S CLOTHING and PLASTIC SHEETING. With the help of monks they have been able to get these items directly into the mot hard hit areas and will continue to collect and send until they are stopped. Donations can be dropped off at Siam Saigon Export at 36/3 Moo3, on the Sankhampaeng Road between the first and second ring roads next to the Caltex station or call for pick up at 089 838 5641 (ask for Tim). A big thank you to those of you who have already donated!”
The Western media has, of course, almost forgotten, in its butterfly-minded manner, the ongoing tragedy still unfolding in Burma. What about us? Do we have short memories too, or are we just too embarrassed by the way our home countries’ governments and the UN more or less ducked the above issue, turned around, went home, and left the picking up of the pieces to small NGOs, monks and other concerned human beings, some of whom were risking their lives to help? The same governments, of course, are behaving in an identical manner regarding Zimbabwe, Darfour, etc, etc. So, all the heartbreak, devastation and abuse of human rights continues world-wide, as economies crumble and share prices crash.
Apart from the fact that expats here should consider themselves extremely lucky to be out of the mainstream on the one hand and not living in Burma, Zimbabwe or Darfour on the other, where does the world go from here? It’s not global warming we have to fear - it’s ourselves and our governments.
At least here in Chiang Mai, people have not forgotten about Burma - perhaps because there are so many Burmese, uprooted from their homeland, resident in the city. Resident out of fear for their lives; resident because they can find menial work which enables them to send money back to their families; resident, in a few fortunate cases, because they are studying here and may, as a result of their education, be instrumental in clawing their country back from the evil empire which controls it now.
These residents, and hopefully thousands of others who still care and who haven’t “moved on,” will be out in force on Friday, July 11, when CMU’s convention centre will host an event entitled “60 Days After Nargis” in aid of Nargis disaster relief in Burma. Opening at 1 pm, entrance is free; the objectives of the events will be to give updates on the situation in the affected areas, to search for solutions to the needs of those areas, to foster understanding and awareness of affected peoples’ human rights, to strengthen networks among individuals, civil society groups, academics, non-government organizations and organizations working on and in Burma and to raise more funds for the victims of Nargis via local groups and initiatives in Burma. Go there, be there, spend money there, donate to the small organisation which sent the first paragraph of this article to this paper - above all, CARE!
In your own small way, start to reclaim the world we live in by acting differently from those who control that world.
For more information please contact
Aphatsorn Sombunwatthankun 086 909 1238 and [email protected]

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