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Two communities - two festive occasions-one party

Elephant therapy hope for autistic kids extended to depressives and phobia sufferers

OPINION

 

Two communities - two festive occasions-one party

Everyone’s having fun!

Girls’ get-together - the guys are discussing football on the terrace!

Integration between the Thai and expat communities has been very much in focus recently - this page has mentioned, more than once, that it seems essential and should also include interaction between the diverse sub-communities within the foreign presence here in CM. But, how difficult is this to achieve, given cultural differences as well as language problems? Within the city itself, the “great divide” often seems wider than it perhaps is; a successful exception to this rule being the Chiang Mai Friends group, growing fast in numbers and including many Thai residents as well as farangs. However, in the country areas surrounding the city, it may well be a different story.
For example, a party was held last week in a tiny and sadly incomplete moo baan in San Sai, approximately 2 kms from the main Doi Saket road, highway 118. The moo baan is located at the edge of a small village in which the meeting place is, inevitably, the local shop/ bar, run by Khun Banee and her husband, the deputy headman of the village. Readers would easily recognise the shop as the equivalent of their local pub or bar in their home country, but, of course, it also sells everything from straw hats, (essential not only for villagers but also for balding farang guys with gardens that need lots of daytime work), to foodstuffs of every kind, household goods and that even more essential supply, beer! Most nights, the tables outside the shop are full, not only with Thais, but with regulars from the farang community resident in several nearby moo baans. All are made equally welcome by Khun Banee.
The party-givers, Carole and Eric, emigrated as retirees from the UK nearly 3 years ago, and took up residence in their new home a year or so after they had arrived in Chiang Mai. Even now, there are only two homes permanently occupied, theirs and this writer’s, with another large house belonging to a Brit working abroad, three houses standing empty, one plot being ignored by its supposed owner and three plots unsold, probably permanently. Not exactly what was promised by the developer…it’s “watch your back” time again, folks! The good news is that Roger and Jason will have left the UK and will be our next-door neighbours by the end of this month - welcome, guys! Excuse for another party…
Back to last week’s party - a double celebration of the arrival on their first visit to Mum and Dad’s new home of Carole and Eric’s son Stephen, his wife Sarah and their children Ethan and Rhianna - both of whom have spent most of their time in their grandparents’ swimming pool! The second cause for celebration was Stephen’s birthday. Not overly enthusiastic about cooking for 25 or so guests, not to mention clearing up after them the following morning, the ever-practical Carole asked Khun Banee to provide the food, extra seating and an awning to protect against the regular evening tropical downpours of this untypical rainy season. As it turned out, a great idea all round! The party itself was integration personified, with guests from both communities mixing, laughing, talking, (occasionally in two different languages!) eating delicious and over-supplied food, drinking, (lots of that going on!) dancing and singing along with the guitarist, who was also provided, of course, by Khun Banee!
So, that’s how it should be. We’re all human beings - we all enjoy a great night out - (or in, in this case), with friends. Those of us who came here to make friends with the local people will know by now that it enriches our lives - and, hopefully, those of our Thai friends as well - to those of us who are still stuck in “farang land”, get out there and go for it - the rewards are immense.

 

Elephant therapy hope for autistic kids extended to depressives and phobia sufferers

Following innovative research begun last year at Chiang Mai University into “elephant therapy” as a promising treatment for autism in children, CMU’s Faculty of Medical Sciences has taken the theory a step further. A similar programme has now been proposed involving sufferers from depression and phobias.
The theory behind the use of elephants is based on results of studies of elephant calls, which contain infra sound - a relaxation tone - and ultra sound, which triggers active emotions, both of which are beneficial to autism sufferers and, it is believed, may also reduce the symptoms of depression and phobias.
CMU and the Forest Industry Organisation’s Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang last week signed a memorandum of cooperation to work together to devise a full therapy programme for autistic children between the ages of 9 and 19 years. The initial study reported improvements in several areas, including self-reliance and social reactions. Dr. Audomsark Haesungcharern, dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, confirmed that the results of the research had been beyond his team’s expectations, and that further studies could be extended to cover various psychological disorders.
The head of the project, Nuntanee Satiansukpong, explained the manner in which children would be matched with elephants which had compatible personalities in that, for example, hyperactive children could be paired with calm elephants and introverted children with extrovert elephants. Nuntanee also reported that an autistic boy who had never shown any physical affection or verbal communication with his parents had, after therapy, spoken to and hugged them.
Worldwide research has shown that other mammals, particularly horses, dogs and dolphins, can also be of benefit in improving the symptoms of autism.


OPINION: Finally, some answers to a frequently asked question

Elena Edwards
After frequent requests and unanswered pleas, both verbal and in writing, for input from readers as regards their likes, dislikes and opinions about this newspaper, it seems that I have, at last, somewhat of an answer. Not, it must be said, from Mailbag or in a letter to the editor, but from that refuge for frazzled farangs, (and, thankfully, others not so frazzled,) the Thai Visa Chiang Mai Forum. A friend alerted me to the thread; after having read the initial post, (obviously from someone who had not read that week’s paper carefully enough), and having sifted through the predictably negative “fish and chip wrapper” comments, I was amazed to read a critique of the CM Mail which included some seriously valid points. My sincere thanks to its author! However, there were comments made on certain issues which, I feel, might need a brief explanation.
The Chiang Mai Mail is the expat community’s only English language newspaper, and is, as mentioned in the post, a “weekly” rather than a daily which covers a wider range of countrywide news. Therein lies the first problem - we at the sharp end have no idea how many of our readers watch the news, (either in Thai or in English), read the Bangkok Post, etc, or surf the international media pages. We don’t know because no-one tells us! So - given at least 3 days between deadlines and hitting the news stands, it’s possible that some of you might just know more about a particular non-local story’s updates than we did when we placed it! But - it’s also possible that there are many readers who do not follow the news in the above manner for various reasons, and are happy to read it some days after its occurrence.
Secondly - and a very good point - timely and significant local news. This, together with most news from local organisations and other sources is almost always in Thai, as are all press reports, national and local meetings, etc. The team here in Chiang Mai are farang; unfortunately we are not fluent Thai speakers and therefore rely mostly on supplied (not chosen) local news items, often delayed by the need for translation by an outside agency. In other words - we use what we’re sent when we get it! We are, however, looking at ways to improve this aspect. Readers could help - local news is not just about muggings, drugs, floods, etc, it’s also about human interest stories concerning real people and their lives. If you don’t tell us, we won’t know!
We are reporting CMU research and events where possible - yes, it’s important. See this page for an example. Local political news, particularly if connected with the Mayor’s administration, is now being published on a regular basis, as are business stories when available. The author of the Thai Visa post is absolutely right on this - anything which helps farangs to understand local issues and their possible consequences is essential reading. Regular updates on the tourist industry, immigration and economic issues will be forthcoming in future, as will more detailed advance notifications of diverse events of interest. Various economic issues, mostly linked to agriculture and the increase in food prices, have, in fact, been “forthcoming” frequently in the not-too distant past! Pollution issues have also been very well covered. On the lighter side, the comment about occasional “idle chatter” on the Femail page seems a little harsh - we women enjoy “idle chatter” from time to time, and don’t have problems focusing on both serious and trivial issues! Note to the post’s author - sadly, I am unable to trace Edna! Maybe she’ll reappear some day…
The Thai Visa post which prompted this text mentions “last year” several times - I hope its author also noticed that the paper’s moved on from there, albeit slowly. As regards “cut and paste” articles, serious reporting and “filling” the paper, I would like to invite said author to submit a letter to Mailbag stressing these points! And, to any readers who want to submit their views as well - bring ‘em on, I’d love to hear from you. Our vision for the Chiang Mai Mail is for it to inform, entertain and support its readers and for it to become the valid representative and voice of the expat community. I can’t stress too strongly that, for us to achieve this goal, we need your input.