Welcome

I guess you are here because you have discovered one of my books and enjoyed it enough to find out more about the author, me. Either that or you’re a potential employer who is investigating me to see if I would be a good fit for your organization. In which case, surprise, I write books as well as teach. Some might look at that as a bad thing, and if so, please explain to me how.

For whoever finds my site, I want to welcome you, and also allow you the opportunity to follow me on a regular basis. Anybody is welcome as long as you keep your posts appropriate, and respect the other followers to this site. As long as everybody follows those two simple rules, I won’t have to kick anybody off. Let the friendly banter begin.

I am hoping to create an interactive site that everybody can enjoy. Of course, I will keep you up to date on the latest writings coming out of my head, and I will also let you know when and where I will be in the world, so someday you might be able to meet me in person. Most people regret that decision, but who knows, maybe you’ll be in the minority.

I will also tell you about my world-wide travels as this is something I do on a regular basis. I’ll show you pictures from places I have been (this one is from Dubrovnik, better known to fans of The Song of Ice and Fire as King’s Landing), and tell you the exciting stories that happen to me along the way. You are also welcome to ask me any questions you may have about the place I have been, and I will try to answer them in a timely manner.

I know it all sounds amazing, and I can see you wondering why you haven’t been a part of this fantastic experience so far, but let me tell you about the most exciting part of following this site – the interactive part.  You were probably wondering when I would get to that part I had promised you earlier. Well, I plan to create a list every month, and I want you to participate in its formation. I do love countdowns, but I am always disappointed in them. So I have decided to take matters into my own hands. You will be able to post your top ten of each monthly list and at the end of each month, I will comprise the total list to give you the countdown for that subject. Look for each new subject on the first day of each month, and the final list of the previous month by the fifteenth.

Otherwise, it is very nice to have you a part of this experience, and I look forward to all of our future posts together.

The Holidays in Thailand

Thailand is definitely a Buddhist country. Yes, there are hints of other religions represented in this country, but most of the citizens give their faith over to the man under the bodhi tree. The image of Buddha is everywhere and might even be more prevalent than images of Christianity in America. I like to point this out because it has come to me as quite the surprise when the Christmas season came around and I saw all of the decorations that were being brought out to prepare the people of Bangkok for this great holiday.

It is weird to see how much the people in Bangkok really get into Christmas. They obviously do not celebrate it for the same reason that many Christians supposedly celebrate the holiday, but they like the idea of giving each other presents and getting together at the end of the day to have a meal with their family. It does not matter what religion it comes from, it just matters that it gives them another reason to celebrate.

Of course, the Thai people put their own little spin on it. I still have run across the usual snowflakes, and pictures of Santa Claus. They have even brought out the big fake plastic pine trees to decorate them with lights and little baubles, but they have also added a menagerie of animals all painted in pastel colors that I do not usually associate with Christmas, but it does not really matter because it is still festive in its own special way.

I am not really sure I know why it happens out in Thailand. It could be that the companies like to promote the holiday to pack people into the malls so they can make a little extra money, or maybe it is there to respect the cultures of other countries around the world. It could be a combination of both of these things, but I think the real reason is that they just want to celebrate, and this gives them a reason to do so. It is a lesson that the rest of the world could learn from. Does it really matter why we celebrate Christmas anymore, or is it more important that we do celebrate? Should we discourage other cultures because they do not celebrate the same holiday that we do, or should we join them in their celebration? It might mean that we might get fatigued by celebrating too often, but in the long run is anybody ever really sad when they celebrate these holidays? We might be a happier world because of it.

I know it is the beginning of the holiday season, and no matter holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a happy one, but please take the time wish everybody else the same thing. Share in that kind of joy.

Traffic – Downtown Bangkok

Traffic coming into downtown on Sukhimvit Road on a Friday night.

Bangkok has become one of the premiere destinations in the world to go on vacation to. It is a big, exciting city with many cultural sites worth visiting, and a lot of great food to experience. Once you get to the downtown area, it is a lot of fun to travel to all of the spots and to enjoy the nightlife. As a city, it is constantly growing, and because of this, there are more and more vehicles on the road. The city did not really plan in advance for this kind of growth, and because of this, a trip downtown on a Friday night could turn into a nightmare stuck in the backseat of a cab. The traffic jams that happen in this part of Thailand make moving from one place to another almost impossible, and it is the biggest headache that this city has to offer.

One of the many klongs that can be found in Bangkok. This is another option for getting around downtown.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that Bangkok is an old city that was designed with canals, or klongs, that would be used to transport people from one place to another. They are still in use today, and if you go down to certain spots, you are still able to catch a water-taxi that can take you to many of the sights that you will want to see. It is part of the appeal of this big city, and part of its charm. It is not the fastest way to get around normally, but during the snarl of rush hour traffic on a Friday, it could save a person an hour of time that could be spent doing something more productive like eating pad thai or have a drink with friends.

The Jim Thompson house, one of Bangkok’s many sights and is easily accessible from a klong, or the BTS.

Bangkok is doing a lot to modernize the city so it allows visitors to get around more freely, but they are still in the process of making this happen and it has not quite been completed yet. They have two line of elevated trains that are called the BTS, and yes, they are the original BTS, not the boy band from Korea. It will take you to many of the bigger sights, but it is situated only in the downtown area, and has not made it out to the suburbs yet. They are working on bringing the line all the way down to Min Buri right now, but until it is completed, it is just causing the road that it follows to be a bigger mess than it usually is. They also have two subway trains that will take you to many more locations. The only problem is the BTS and the subway system are owned by two different companies which makes transfers between the two a little difficult. Despite this small problem, it is helping with the congestion problem in Bangkok, and taking the BTS is a great way of getting a bird’s eye view of the city while traveling from place to place.

The sun setting over Bangkok from the view of one of the many rooftop bars in town.

Bangkok is a great city that blends old Siam culture together with the conveniences of modern times. It is going through some growing pains right now as it tries to figure out all of the intricacies to put it on the map as one of the greatest destination cities in the world, and even though the traffic is its biggest problem, it should not discourage people from coming out here and enjoying everything that it has to offer. If you do, just make sure that you understand that you will not always get around as fast as you would hope, and a little patience is in order.

The Moment

Why do we feel the need to get away?

Should we not see all in the moment?

After we have been a part of the play
Do we realize how our time was spent?

For in that small time of experience,
When we believe that it does not matter,
It actually has the most importance
Of what we’ll eventually remember.

The passing does not give explanation
Of why we should stop and pay attention.

It is nothing more than an extension
Of what gives my life an explanation.

Should I worry about the moment spent,
Or never care about where it had went?

A Morning Respite

The mountain is shrouded in dark shadow,
Feeling encased in the hug of storm clouds.
The humidity makes the air hang low,
Clearing the morning streets of tourist crowds.
Under the protection of tile eaves,
I take a sip off of my first coffee,
Watching the shaking of the willow leaves.
The coming rain causes them to worry.
It forces me to take a life of ease,
Waiting for a time when I won’t get wet.
I’ll have to sit here and enjoy the breeze
To take within the moment that I get.
I’ll give the sky time to let out its tears.
There will be time for fun when it all clears.

Our Nightly Meal

We will eventually feel the fall breeze
Meandering over the rice fields.
It’s the addition we need to this ease
Of living off of what this farm yields.
The men will gather the vegetables
That we will use for our dinner table.
It is in that moment when our troubles
Turn into nothing more than a fable.
We will know then that the day’s long labor
Has been worth all of our time and effort.
We’ll be surrounded by those we adore
When we give to each other our support.
This is the power of the night’s meal
When a family can become real.

Downtime

My goal for today is not to have one.
It is important this is accomplished,
And that absolutely nothing gets done,
For it’s a dream devoutly to be wished.
It is harder to do than what you think
Because there’s always something demanding
To be saved from going over the brink,
Keeping my community from dying.
From society’s web I’ll disconnect
To keep them from grabbing my attention,
For if I answer, my goals will be wrecked.
I’ll never gain any relaxation.
I know this may be hard for you to see,
But today is dedicated to me.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of many elephany statues found in Chiang Mai

When most people think of Thailand, they think of all of the exotic animals that can be found here. There is a plethora of birds, monitor lizards, monkeys, and tigers, and it is impossible to talk about this part of the world without bringing up the elephants. Many people travel to Chiang Mai just to spend some time with these majestic creatures, but if you do come out here to do that, please make sure you do your research first, and find the places that treat the animals well.

A statue of a horse found at Wat Phra Singh

And yes these types of animals all exist out here, and in the short time I have been here, I have been able to come across most of them as well as some that you would expect to see in other parts of the world as well, such as horses, water buffaloes, cats, and dogs. Yes, there are plenty of dogs all over the place. Someday, I will have to do a post dedicated to the soi dog epidemic, but that is not what this post is really about.

A naga at the entrance of the shrine at Wat Phra Singh

One of the reasons I became an English teacher was because of my love of mythology. I have always been fascinated by the stories that were told by the greatest of mythology, but more importantly the mythical creatures that I have come across throughout my travels. I knew that there was a mythology associated with Thailand that takes from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, but it wasn’t until I made it out to Chiang Mai that I was able to fully understand that rich history behind this mythology and how it is still ingrained within the culture of Thailand.

Nagas can be found at most temples as the guardians to the images of Buddha. They appear as large snakes, sometimes with more than one head, and even though the legend tells of these creatures being born from the Hindu deity, Kadru, their legend is more associated with Buddha himself. When Buddha first reached nirvana under the boa tree while looking out at a river, he was protected from any interruptions from one of these creatures. It is the reason why many of the temples have them at their entrances. Beyond this, they are also associated with the Thai New Year when people will have the biggest water fight anywhere in the world. It is believed that the spraying of water into the air will appease these beasts and they will pop their heads out the many rivers, and the ocean to squirt water in the air and allow for a very rainy season.

The statue of the Three Kings with the royal seal on the building behind them depicting a garuda

The brother to the naga would be the garuda. This is the mythical beast most associated with royalty in Thailand, and is a part of the actual seal of all official documents. It is a creature that basically has the head and arms of a man, but the rest of his body is that of a bird. As far as the stories go, there is only one garuda, and he is the half-brother of all the nagas. They both have the same father, but the garuda’s mother was Vinata. The two creatures fight in an eternal battle with each other with the garuda consuming as many nagas as he can come across.

A yaksha

Though the brothers have some sibling rivalry to content with, they both are mortal enemies of the yaksha. This creature can be found at numerous temples and as stone statues in front of people’s houses. They carry around clubs and cause havoc wherever they go. They are considered demons and they are most closely related to the ones that Buddha had to contend with during his lifetime. They appear in many of the tales across Thai classical literature, and even though they take on the role of the antagonist in many of the stories, they are not always evil.

There are many other creatures that can be found at many of the wats and temples all across Thailand, and they each add a specific flavor to the culture of this country that gives the world a unique and varied mythology. It triggers my imagination, taking it to places that will allow for me to create stories and campaigns for games, and I am happy to be able to learn more about this culture, not only from its beautiful landscape and food, but also from the collection of stories that it has told.