June 8-14, 2005
Last night Watcharee's girl friend, Ruung, came over for an early soi (*) dinner. But, the pictured post-prandial manicure took place on the kitchen floor.
After eating I repaired to my computer room and enjoyed watching the gathering storm from behind double panes of glass. For the past ten days or so Bangkok has been awash with these thunderous sheets of water ... [Of course, this is quite normal for this time of the year] ... Anyway, these things time their rainy arrival with almost clockwork precision; crossing the river every evening at about 6:40. But, they don't linger for very long; about ninety minutes later they leave behind a clear sky.
June 1st is also the start of the monsoon rains in India. The Indian monsoon is really quite different from what we get in Thailand. Instead of acting like a clock its regularity is more calendaric. It starts in southern India, below Cochin, and marches its way upward over the next couple of months. Ten days into the season it passes over Bombay (now Mumbai); five weeks later it is north of New Delhi. (**)
The Florida (***) Hurricane Season also began on June 1st. Like 7/11 hold-ups there is nothing predictable about it at all.
(*) 'Soi' in Thai means street. Soi food is food that is purchased from one of Bangkok's many street vendors. It is almost always remarkably good and very rarely does anybody ever keel over after eating it.
(**) Each year the Indian Meteorological Department is charged with plotting its course ... when and where. Unfortunately, the Met is a bit stuck in a colonial-era time warp. Its basic tools were inherited from the British: wind gauges and evaporation pans, thermometers dipped by hand into the Arabian Sea and depth measurements of the Himalayan snow taken by sticks marked with chalk. And all of this is phoned or faxed in to the Met's main office in Pune on a bits and pieces basis ... only to be finally written up in manila folders by men with pens.
(***) How parochial of me! I should have called it the Atlantic Hurricane Season. But, as we have a house in Florida...location, location, location is everything. A hurricane on the Louisiana coast? Boring. Let's change channels.
PS: We have been known to take a taxi from our home to the Shangri-La hotel during one of these dinner-hour Bangkok rains ... even though the distance, door to door, is less than 50 meters. The cabbies love it as they get 100 baht whether they drive a foot or a mile.
It was going on right above me and I didn't even know it!
For years THOCBDC has been reporting on the arboreal war that has been raging on a rooftop in a far and distant place; on a building of which we knew very little and cared about even less. But, I must say, our initial (and I might add, 'seminal') coverage of this foreign battle (surprisingly) was written long ago ... when we were early tenants of Gore Vidal. Admittedly, we peered at this whole thing while safely behind the glass of powerful telephoto lenses.
Then we moved to River Garden ... and closer to the action. Of course, THOCBDC continued to watch and comment on this ebb and flow of the warring branches ... which was by now just across the river and slightly to the north of the bridge.
Until yesterday I did not know that an even greater arboreal locking of horns was taking place just one elevator ride above me. On my walk to the Shangri-La hotel to check out the excitement at the "Southeast Asia Rising" conference I chanced to glance towards home.
Oh, My God! We always think these things will happen to someone else; that it will never smite us in our own backyard. How naive we always are!
It was there: right overhead.
There is something for everybody in this morning's breakfast read.
It is still 17 months away, but the Thai Ministry of Public Health is already planning for it: the second (*) World Toilet Expo and Forum ... which will be held here in Bangkok in November 2006.
Since all eyes will then be on Bangkok's public toilets, Deputy Public Health Minister Anuthin Charnveerakul said that his ministry was working with local officials and health volunteers to inspect public toilets and ensure they meet sanitary standards.
Mr. Anuthin said he himself was very wary when he had to use a public toilet. "I have to open a public toilet door with my foot and ask those washing hands before me not to turn off the faucets because I do not want to contract anything in that breeding ground for germs." The Public Health department has found "... fecal coliforms everywhere - on the floors, toilet seats, water cisterns, taps and door knobs."
Our three pictured 'presenters' [aka convention girls] (**) are seen here illustrating toilets from the past to the very now. And, their traditional costumes are what their respective potties might have expected to see hanging from loo-door hooks in those earlier salad days.
(*) Neither the Bangkok Post nor The Nation mentioned where the first World Toilet Expo and Forum was held. But, THOCBDC was able to sleuth out the site: it was in Shanghai, this last May. Readers who want to dig deeper into the piles that seem to be responsible for fiddling with the world's toilets should first visit: http://www.worldtoiletexpo.com/home.htm. An outfit with a similar agenda is the World Toilet Organization; to be found at: http://www.worldtoilet.org/hp/wto_hp.htm. Though this one also deals with WC porcelain, it seems to play more of an umbrella role ... overseeing both the wipe-and-flush work of the Expo people AND the loftier nose-in-the-air musings of the Ivory Tower 'toiletdemicians' over at the World Toilet Summit: http://www.2005worldtoiletsummit.com.
(**) THOCBDC would have liked to have been there when their agents rang them up with news of this golden gig.
PS: Ellie and Flora have grown since we last saw them in Bangkok.
Yesterday, using the helpful PS section to my journal, I added a couple of recent photos of my two granddaughters: Flora and Ellie. No doubt about it, their family album is still pure, clean and angelic ... totally smudgeless. Had these two little girls been model sketches for some illustrated book ... with little talking balloons above their heads ... I am sure their floating words would have been ever so soft, gentle and always innocent. And Mom would eternally know what's best.
I also have two grandsons: Chris and Cam. This morning their Mom, Annie, emailed me two recent 'out-takes' from their own family photo album. Obviously, their innocent phase was fleeting; and by now it has pretty much been relegated to their personal history vaults, with few or no regrets. Though Cam still had an aura of purity about him when he went to Kenya with us in early 1999, Chris was definitely more interested in the darker side of life during the time he was in Bangkok, which was just a dozen weeks after Cam finished his African journal.
"Boys will be boys." - Anon.
PS: "You're smart too late and old too soon." - Mike Tyson, on quitting in the 6th round in a boxing match against Irishman Kevin McBride.
Thammasat University is one of the two (*) most prestigious universities in Thailand; it is run by the government but its tuition is comparable with the country's best private universities ... so, it is pricey. Because of this it attracts a lot of students from 'Hi-So' (**) families.
Thammasat's first and oldest campus is located near the Grand Palace in the center of Bangkok ... and it was here that it got its reputation for being a hotbed of liberal politics. "In 1973 a student led revolution succeeded in overthrowing the military government. Three years later the university was attacked and hundreds of students were murdered after right-wing forces seized power from the democratically elected government." (***)
Since Thammasat doesn't have the same ample acreage of Chulalongkorn University the government, a few years back, decided to build a second (and, presumably, the main) campus about 40 kilometers north of the city ... near the Ring Road. This site has been conveniently married into the adjacent large and complex sports facilities that were built for a recently bygone venue for the Asian Games.
Whenever Watcharee and I have driven to Ayutthaya we've passed the off-ramp to this campus.
Today I decided to make it my destination.
I centered my attention of the Faculty of Law. The law school is set in an array of buildings that house tangentially related disciplines: Political Science, Accountancy and Commerce.
The central greeter to this part of the campus is one of the founding fathers of the university.
The Faculty of Law is a modern building with many student amenities. But, the core of the teaching system is the body of law ... of which many parts came from the English Common Law. In the law library I spoke with two 1st year law students. They were studying for a Property exam [while listening to music on their I-Pods (or musical equivalents)]. They assured me that the law of intestate succession was very similar to that found in England and the USA. And, that with a will you could easily cut out those intestate takers whom you hated and add anyone you favored.
I intend to visit more Thai law schools.
(*) The other is Chulalongkorn University.
(**) Thai slang for 'high society'.
(***) I swiped this from a guide book to Thailand.
Her name is Bo. Guess her age!
PS: This from Pravda..it sure trumps Thai Rhat for a breakfast read:
The little girl's body was placed in a container of formalin, from where it is still gazing at the world with the only one big blue eye
The weird baby looked at the world with its only eye, took a breath of air with the trunk that was growing on its forehead, and died. Doctors of one of St. Petersburg hospitals told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that it was an absolutely normal woman that gave birth to the incredible mutant-baby, which could be compared to a Cyclops. The female creature was covered with thick hair; it had only one eye in the center of its forehead and a small trunk that was growing on the head above the eye.
The middle-aged mother of the unusual child had a preterm delivery. Doctors would not have time to take her to the maternity hospital. The woman gave birth to the baby girl at home. Doctors' hair stood on end when they saw the seven-month-old fetus. Thick hair was growing on the girl's shoulders and back. Locks of hair were growing on the baby's head too. The little girl has a big blue eye on the forehead. The child had no nose: there was something strange growing on the head right above the eye. Doctors believed at first that it was a penis, although they determined later that it was a small trunk, through which the baby could breathe.
The mutant child died almost instantly. The doctors tried to take life-saving efforts, but they brought no result.
It is hard to imagine what kind of shock the child's parents had to survive. They were dreaming about a baby for long, but their dream ended with a nightmare.
The deceased infant was sent to a morgue, where professional experts of forensic medicine thoroughly examined the little body. The hairy, one-eyed girl had a number of other physical defects, which would not let her live even for several days.
Nobody buried the strange baby in the end. The body was placed in a big glass container of formalin, from where it is still gazing at the world with the only one big blue eye.
"This is a unique incident, - gynecologist Ivan Rylchikov said. - Such deviations are possible; they can be caused with a variety of reasons. The formation of the eyes and brain starts during the first week of the embryonic growth. The presence of certain chemical substances, various medications, in the organism of the mother can exert a strong influence on the fetus too. Tetracycline, which is strongly not recommended for use during pregnancy, can cause a certain deviation in the physical development of a child. The medicine affects the development of the fetus's bones and teeth; even a small dose can be extremely dangerous for an unborn child. A Cyclops is not viable - they do not live longer than only one week. In addition, nature has its own regulator. If the development of the fetus takes an unusual turn, the probability of a miscarriage increases a lot. This is the way that Mother Nature uses to kill mutants in the womb," the specialist said.
Next: Part III