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

Thai Matters

Soroptimists to present a treasure-trove of traditional music

Northern Thailand featured in Clinton visit

Micro-financing and birth control empowers rural women

 

Thai Matters

The birth of a salon

Carla Hoogland
Lee works as a masseuse near the notorious Patpong district in Bangkok. That is not always fun to do. The working conditions and the customers are not always ideal. The days are long, the payment is only from commissions. No massage is no money, and three times a week the ladies have to work in their own time to clean the shop. They start at 9 a.m. in the morning. In the evening, their work goes on until 1 a.m.. Every day the same and one day off in a month. Lee is thirty-four and would like to go elsewhere. Especially since the boss of the salon applies a tight and unjust regime. For example, because Lee helped with the rebooking of our tickets, she had to pay 10,000 baht fine to her boss. She knew it was not permitted to have contact with customers outside the shop. We have known Lee for a while now and think that she is reliable. We are willing to help her to start a company, but at first send her to Wat Po for a medical massage training and to hairdressing training.

Moving in...the blessing ceremony, during which our monk clearly has to make sure he hasn’t missed any areas!

The salon should be opened in Chiang Mai, after Bangkok the biggest place in Thailand, with 300 temples, but maybe just as many massage parlours. At first, Lee researches into the possible sale of established salons. That does not really succeed, but a broker in the area has a shop for sale. The owner wants to go to live with her boyfriend in Australia.
The sale is closed quickly. For us westerners Thailand is cheap, and so is buying a business. We realise that what we will be earning will also be very little, but we are not opening the shop with the idea of becoming rich. After a deposit has been passed over, we get the key to the three-storey building. The official transfer will take some time because a Thai Ltd. Company must be formed. In Thailand, foreigners cannot own a company - 51% of all shares has to be in the hands of a Thai. A brief chat with our lawyer tells us that, legally, it is possible for us to make it difficult for our Thai partner to sell the company without our knowledge. Furthermore, we must first speak with the landlord. The rent will remain the same, as agreed, for three years. The rent is low, at least that is what the former owner of the shop tells us. After a few days, we realise that the rent is three times higher than we were told. This is a shock, as we have just moved inro the shop. Everything, from couches to the full inventory of a hairdresser, all brand new and bought from the only hairdressing wholesaler we were able to locate in Chiang Mai. For around 300 euro, we now own everything from shampoo, hairdryers and hair serums to a hair spa. I had never seen a hair spa in the Netherlands - a kind of hair dryer with holes which allow the hair to be sprinkled. Very popular with Thai ladies, who almost never wash their hair by themselves. They will, if they can afford it, go to the salon every day. Later on, we realise that, during her hairdresser training course, Lee only learned one thing...how to wash hair! Cutting, etc, comes in the 4th year of the course. Ah, well, priorities are priorities!
Meanwhile , we prove that westerners are more resolute than Thais. We decide the same day that the sale cannot proceed because of false information. Because we know our way around town, (a little bit), and speak a few words of Thai, within half an hour the moving company is back. Consternation all around. By coincidence, on a nearby corner another shop is for sale. One floor more and, we think, a better location, one street from the world-famous Night Bazaar. When we look it over, we have never before seen such a mess! On the floor is a carpet full of massage oil. There is a great deal to be done, but the fourth floor also offers the possibility of a condominium for our manager, Lee.
We decide to buy shop 2, in spite of the mess, as the purchase price is significantly lower and our already purchased items must go somewhere. The owner of the shop is very happy and, a few days later sacrifices to the Buddha in the shop. A complete vegetable and fruit market is displayed on a rug, and the pig’s head is, luckily, already off! We are, obviously, going have a lot of ‘good luck’ in the future. Behind the display stands one of our first customers for a foot massage! Everything’s possible in Thailand.
Now, we must think about renovations, electricity, staff and everything else that’s involved in running a Thai shop.
To be continued next week.
The intrepid entreprenuers’ shop, now up and running, is Leena Massage & Hair , 2/2 Soi 6, Charoenprathet Road. Tel.: 053-818-870 / 086-882-7450 or visit their
website at www.leenamassage.com

 

Soroptimists to present a treasure-trove of traditional music

Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle

The next open meeting of the Chiang Mai chapter of Soroptimists International, to be held on August 19 at the Amari Rincome Hotel, will include a presentation by Victoria Vorreiter, entitled, ‘Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle’

Victoria will highlight these ancient musical traditions using film, recordings, and images, in a wonderful presentation that will give an insight into a different world, so close and yet so far away from us - a window into the world of traditional hill tribe peoples, who live close to the earth, in synchronicity with the seasons, and with lifestyles little changed over the centuries. The photographs, audio and video media clips, will introduce tribal cultures visited by that the Resonance Project.
High in the mountains of the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos , and Myanmar once knew no boundaries, live a rich multiplicity of traditional peoples. Prominent among them are the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, six distinct groups who have maintained their independence and identity to a high degree. Each group represents an extraordinary world, unique in history, language, customs, arts, religion, dress, and features. No less astounding is the diversity of their musical traditions. Living in nature and rooted in animism, these mountain peoples have developed a vast repertory of songs, sacred chants, and instrumental music that is ever-present and vital to their lives.
The keepers of the bardic tradition - the master musicians, shamans, headmen, matriarchs and patriarchs - use their rich trove of songs, legends and rites to connect people with something greater than themselves. Music, supported by ritual and formality, anchors members of a community to their life-source. It reunites them with their ancestors and aligns them with their deities. Ceremonies and songs remind them of their origins and preserve collective memory. Music promotes a sense of communal harmony by instilling identity and belonging. Songs are the chronicles and oracles of the tribal way of life.
The presentation will commence at 5 p.m; all are welcome. Admission, including a High Tea, is 350 baht for non- members. To reserve, please email to [email protected] co.th; for more info on the speaker and her subject, please visit www.musicand thecyclesoflife.com


Northern Thailand featured in Clinton visit

A Northern scholar and a former female Senator each had the opportunity to get ‘face-to-face’ with the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, during her visit to Thailand.
On July 22, Secretary Clinton was on the programme ‘World Beat with Suttichai Yoon’, recorded at Phya Thai Palace, joined by honorary guests and over 150 students.
Dr.  Chakrapand Wongburanavart, the Dean of Mae Fah Luang University’s School of Liberal Arts, who met Secretary Clinton in 1996 during a previous visit to Thailand at the Thai Women of Tomorrow Project in Chiang Rai, recorded a question about the newest U.S. policies to control drug and human trafficking in Southeast Asia.  You can read the entire interview at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/126335.htm
After the programme, former Senator and founder of the Hill Areas Development Foundation, Tuenjai Deetes, had the opportunity to offer a traditional Thai greeting to Secretary Clinton at Phya Thai Palace. Tuenjai was one of a select few female activists to greet the Secretary privately.


Micro-financing and birth control empowers rural women

One of the largest and most diversified NGOs in Thailand, the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), had its beginnings over 40 years ago due to concern about increasing poverty in rural areas caused by a lack of family planning. Initially complementing the then government’s efforts to introduce the concept of contraception to poorer families, PDA’s project at first met with resistance. Due, however, to the friendly and practical nature of the programme, targeted at mothers, it soon became accepted. One strategy employed was the establishment of a form of micro-credit scheme in villages, whereby women won a pig if they managed not to get pregnant. The pigs were then raised for 6 months and sold for a profit! The message was, ‘the more children you have, the poorer you will become’; the ‘win a pig’ scheme and others introduced by PDA managed to reduce the average number of children per household from 7 to 1.2, with population growth rate decreasing to 0.3%.
In the 1980’s, PDA introduced an HIV/Aids prevention and education strategy, encouraging villagers to distribute condoms and contraceptive pills in remote rural areas where their availability was restricted.
Having realised that poverty was, (and still is), the root cause of many of the kingdom’s social problems, including HIV/Aids, a further development undertaken by PDA was the setting up of the Village Development Bank, aimed at eradicating poverty by encouraging self-reliance. Financing, again on a micro-credit basis, enabled villages to whom conventional financing was not available, to set up and maintain their own businesses.
PDA’s programmes now cover more than 1/3 of Thailand, employing 800 people and working with 12,000 volunteers. Apapan Kulapongse, the NGO’s project manager, believes strongly that, ‘the poor are still poor because they lack two things: access to credit and training in business, and life skills. The Village Development Bank gives villagers access to micro-loans with affordable interest rates. We also give them skills to run the fund, distribute loans and do bookkeeping. After that, we also encourage them to use the profits from the micro-credit fund towards development activities for their own village’.
Proof of the success of this belief can be seen in the areas hit by the tsunami, where the funds have grown and, most importantly, the mindset and attitudes of villagers has also changed, specifically amongst women and young people.