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

Thai boys inspired by movie to ordain as novices in summer

Where are the fish? The Mekong River in danger

A fun and furry birthday party

And God said - and Satan replied…

In retirement: Use it or lose it

 

Thai boys inspired by movie to ordain as novices in summer

Most children spend time playing or attending tutoring schools in the summer. But one group of boys has decided to participate in the Novice Ordination Summer Project at Bangkok’s Yannawa Temple.
Buddhist novices are aged from 7 up to 20, with some ordaining to show gratitude to their families. Others voluntarily became novices for other reasons such as making new friends or changing their lifestyles. Recently, some are even saying they were inspired by last year’s movie ‘Orahun Summer’ (‘Enlightened Summer’), a comedy about the fun of becoming a novice in the summer time.
The little monks at Yannawa Temple shared their feelings about living at the temple. One boy said, “I like it a little. I like asking for alms in the morning because I can get to go outside.” Another liked that he, “gained knowledge about Buddhism from monk teachers.” A third stated that, “We get to practice our patience, learn dhamma, learn how to meditate and make a lot of friends.”
The young novices also learn from the ordination the art of living with others, how to make Buddhist prayers and how to be disciplined in their actions. They are cared for and trained by senior novices.
“Children usually have short concentration spans. We try to insert dhamma lessons and teach them to meditate properly, as much as they can at their age. For example, we give them easy mantras to practice praying so at least they can enjoy themselves,” said Teerapat Yatrii, a senior novice/preceptor.
Although the young novices say life in yellow robes during the 15-day project is different from and less fun than the life of the little monks in the ‘Orahun Summer’ movie, what they receive is self-discipline, a productive summer and new friendships. (TNA)

 

Where are the fish? The Mekong River in danger

Elena Edwards
The annual month-long Mekong giant catfish fishing season, during which it is illegal for the fishermen to catch more than two giant Mekong catfish in total in order to protect the unique and endangered species, opened at the end of last month with a catch of a female giant fish weighing 180 kilos. The catfish measured 2 metres long, and was caught in the middle of the river near the port of Way Had Krai.
As is policy, fishery officials checked the fish before it was landed, confirming its measurements and cutting into its tail to establish by DNA test whether it was naturally bred or farmed. Its flesh, all of which was immediately reserved, sells for 600 baht per kilo.
The permitted fishing season ends on May 27. In the past, a large number of giant catfish, as well as other species of fish, made their home in the Mekong River, resulting in fishing being the main livelihood of the villagers living along its banks. Older residents remember seeing the river crowded with large number of fishing boats, adding that, nowadays, it is unusual to see more than two or three on the river at any one time, such is the depletion of the fish stocks.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have again warned that the damming of the Mekong River will have a significant trans-boundary impact on all countries which share its flow. Strong concerns continue to exist that the Chinese dam projects further upstream have all but destroyed the natural resources of the river and caused a huge decrease in fish and water plants, affecting local livelihoods along its banks. It is feared that this may cause conflict between states and peoples whose traditional lifeblood has been the Mekong, as diminishing resources become too sparse to share.
The giant catfish, together with other species, are now being farmed along the river banks, in much the same manner as freshwater salmon are farmed in the West. However, within the farmed salmon population, diseases and parasites are now rife and are being treated with antibiotics and other chemicals. The fish are fed colourants in order to give the flesh the pink colour, characteristic of wild salmon, which has been lost in captivity.
A matter of time, probably, until the giant catfish and other species which used to swim free in their natural home are affected in some similar manner. Unless, of course, the projected conflict between river bank dwellers in the countries through which the Mekong flows destroys the fish farms. When will we ever learn?


A fun and furry birthday party

Karin Hawelka
A very special celebration is being planned, to which everyone’s invited - the 3rd birthday party at the Care for Dogs’ shelter. Friends, neighbours, supporters - anyone who would like to join in and share the happiness and energy of the CFD team on Sunday, June 7 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The shelter will be dressed in its party best, the road outside will be closed and tents and seating will be supplied to give a shady welcome to everyone. Inside the shelter, the dogs will be on their best behaviour - with the friendliest at the front and the most excitable in areas that people can enter if they wish.
Care for Dogs staff and volunteers are planning for most eventualities; however, if you fancy joining one of the shelter tours and playing with the dogs, please come with comfortable doggy-friendly clothes as they might jump on you and love you like crazy!
We will have food and drinks to suit most people, cakes & coffee, classical Thai dance, a fortune wheel, and prizes and gifts. Music and ambience will calm the heat of the day. Kids will have fun at our Kiddies Corner, with Arts and Crafts, a Scavenger Hunt, and a Create a Doggy Puppet event. With so many volunteers on hand to help the day run smoothly, we can assure you of an enjoyable & memorable occasion.
For more details about Care for Dogs’ activities, and the party, please contact 084-7 52-5255 (English) or 086-913-8701 (Thai), or visit the website at www.carefordogs .org. Come and join us on June 7.


And God said - and Satan replied…

Jenny Baker
In the beginning, God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and red vegetables of all kinds so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. Then, using God’s bountiful gifts, Satan created Dairy Ice Cream and Magnums. And Satan said, “You want hot fudge with that? And Man said, “Yes!” And Woman said, “I’ll have one too, with chocolate chips.” And, lo, they gained 10 pounds.
And God created the healthy yoghurt that woman might keep the figure that man found so fair. Then, Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 12 to size 14.
So God said, “Try my fresh green salad.” Then Satan presented Blue Cheese dressing and garlic croutons on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.
God then said “I have sent you healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them.”
Then Satan brought forth deep fried coconut king prawns, butter-dipped lobster chunks and chicken fried steak, so big it needed its own platter and Man’s cholesterol went through the roof.
So God brought forth the potato; naturally low in fat and brimming with potassium and good nutrition. Then Satan peeled off the healthy skin, sliced the starchy centre into chips and deep-fried them in animal fats, adding copious quantities of salt. And Man put on more pounds.
God then brought forth running shoes so that his Children might lose those extra pounds. Then, Satan came forth with a cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering light and started wearing stretch jogging suits.
So God gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created Hamburger joints and the 99p double cheeseburger. Then Satan said “You want fries with that?” and Man replied, “Yes, and super size ‘em.” And Satan said, “It is good.” And Man and Woman went into cardiac arrest.
God sighed - and created quadruple by-pass surgery.
And then Satan chuckled and created the National Health Service.
After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here’s the final word on nutrition and health: Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us; Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us; Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us; Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us; Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us; the French eat foie-gras, full fat cheese and drink red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
Life is uncertain - start with the dessert!


In retirement: Use it or lose it

Elena Edwards
Many readers of this newspaper, both male and female, may have decided to spend their retirement years here in Chiang Mai, without considering the effect on their physical and mental heath that may result from such a drastic change in lifestyle and activity levels.
It’s possible that our physical health may improve due to a better diet, more time to take exercise, a warm climate and less workplace stress, but what about our mental and emotional health? Challenges, changing conditions, new ideas and busy schedules in the workplace may have seemed to cause nothing but stress and headaches, but one essential and mostly unnoticed effect is that they keep our brains active, in a manner which the conventional image of retirement activities may be unable to reproduce.
A recent publication submitted to the highly respected International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, which aims to provide an international perspective on all aspects of geriatric psychiatry in a world which contains a rapidly increasing elderly population, concerns research carried out at London University’s Kings College Institute of Psychiatry into the effects of early retirement on the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. The study, sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and carried out by the trust’s scientific advisor, Dr. John Powell and an associate, sends a clear and familiar message - ‘Use it or Lose It’.
The research involved 382 men, 40% of whom retired at the compulsory UK retirement age of 65, but is likely to apply to women as well. Self-employed subjects tended to retire later, and subjects who retired at an earlier age usually had health problems which prevented them from continuing to work. Analysis of the results indicated that in order to retain brain power, it was essential after retirement to keep mentally active and physically fit in order to delay falling below the threshold for dementia.
Periods of unemployment during subjects’ working lives seemed to have no effect on the risk levels for Alzheimer’s, nor did subjects’ educational levels, although late-onset diabetes and hypertension, often causes for early retirement, were found to increase risk levels.
The good news, however, for many in the West who are continuing to work beyond the age of 65 due to the effect of the economic crisis on their pensions or savings income, is that each further year worked delays the possible onset of dementia by 18 months.
For retirees here, both male and female, the temptation to become a ‘couch potato’ after a lifetime of work may be difficult to resist. However, there are many ways to keep one’s brain active … learning Thai (including reading and writing the language!) has its obvious uses above and beyond keeping the brain active. And, on average, could take a good few years. Maintaining an internet blog on subjects you’ve always found fascinating but never had time to fully explore is another, and forming a group of like-minded friends for evenings of stimulating conversation on different topics over supper (and maybe a few beers) is perhaps the most enjoyable way to keep your brain in touch with the real world.
Volunteering is another way; there are so many organisations and NGO’s here in the city who desperately need help, particularly in teaching English, computer skills, and many other subjects. Any (or all) of these options, plus exercise of any form, and an active retirement which protects against this dreaded disease is there to enjoy!