Monday, December 20, 2010

Nice to be Home for the Holidays

Although we love to travel and visit friends and family it's nice to be home for the holidays.

We left the Myanmar (Burma) border and spent three days in Bangkok visiting Daeng's sister. She is a sweet lady that works in a restaurant that caters to shoppers at a large shopping mall in the center of Bangkok.

Although only about 1-2% of the people that live in Thailand are Christians the main areas have lots of Christmas decorations.

We spent one evening site seeing the Christmas decorations at the big shopping centers.

Then onward to California. It was very good to get back into our own bed. We had a lot of fun during our trip and it was nice to work on our vacation home in Northern Thailand but I think we, both Daeng and I, like our home here in California the best.

We think the decorations here in Southern California are the best.

On Saturday we went to Amy's Christmas Party. Amy is my youngest daughter. She and Daeng get along great as they are about the same age. Okay, lighten up folks!

That is my Grand-daughter, Crystal, across from me. She is the one with the big, bright smile.

Not to bore you but I also had a Happy Birthday celebration with most of the family, yesterday. Sister Diane, put together a lunch with a cruise around Newport Beach harbor.

It was raining but was wonderful being with friends and family. Daeng, who gets motion sickness, even had a great lunch and some fun on the boat.

We could not bring Mom due to the rain and the problems of loading her in her wheel chair but we did stop at her care center for some cake and birthday wishes in the afternoon.

Daeng and I want to wish everyone a Happy & Safe Holiday Season!

Love to ALL!
Terry & Daeng

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kids at Childlife and "AKHA" Thanksgiving

We have have been spending so much time working on our home that I haven't written about much else. Two weeks ago we got up early on Sunday morning and traveled on our motorbike to Childlife which is just outside of this small border town of Mae Sai.

We had to take it pretty slow on the dirt road as with all the rain the road was in poor shape. Daeng was driving and managed to miss most of the big mud puddles and pot holes.

We arrived about 8:00 AM, the Church service starts at 8:30 AM. That was nice as we got to talk with some of the kids we know. School was out for mid-semester break so many of the kids were visiting friends and relatives. About a hundred and fifty kids live there when school is in session.

Childlife is a special place started about 11 years ago by Guljohn Jeamrum to help "Street Kids". We were lucky because he was also at Pastor Lota's service and we got to say "Hello" and give him a big hug. If you would like to read more about Childlife just CLICK HERE. Our friend, Pastor Lota, teaches the spiritual meaning of life at Childlife, as well as many other places in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). He is really great with the kids and they love him.
Because Childlife is out in the rural area they have to make their own electricity. Here is their present power plant.

The church service is always great as Pastor Lota completely involves the kids so they have fun. We believe, and so does he, that if the kids don't have fun they won't stick around very long.

One of the little girls is seven years old. Here is a picture of her standing by the water treating system. We are amazed that she is so in touch with her situating at 7 years old. She is one of five girls who's Father died. Two of the girls are over 15 and moved to the big city of Bangkok to earn a living.
She and two sister live at Childlife most of the time.
She does see her mother on a regular basis. She plans on living at Childlife until she is 15, finishing public school and then move to Bangkok to work, also.

She says she has fun at home with her Mother but living at Childlife is even more fun and she has lots of friends. This seven year old girl talked like an adult, completely in touch with the reality of her situation. It was refreshing.

One of her friends was missing her two front teeth. We tried and tried to get a picture of her smiling but we weren't quick enough with the camera.

After the service, Pastor Lota, invited us to a Thanksgiving celebration at his "Akha" village about 20 Km away. We told him we would love to go with him.
He had a short bible study class while we walked around Childlife. Then we hopped on motorbikes with us followed him. Most of the trip was on paved roads.

There is no set Thanksgiving Day here in Thailand but most village celebrate the rice harvest in the fall with a Thanksgiving Celebration of some kind involving eating. About 60 percent of the population are farmers and this small country is the largest exporter of rice in the world. Jasmin rice is Thai rice.

The "Akha" ladies had on their full celebration outfits.
We did eat to much chicken and pork but it was fun being involve in this celebration.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Big Barbecue

Our master suite on the second floor is doing well. The painter is moving right along with quality work. One of the really nice parts of his work is he works clean, picking up after himself. That is something we don't see with most Thai tradesman.

I used the title "Big Barbecue" in a kidding manor. The reason I said that is Daeng and I have an expression: "If you see smoke, let's stop and eat." The reason for that is we both like barbecued chicken and usually when you see smoke it is because someone is barbecuing.

We have laughed on a few occasions as we have seen smoke, stopped and found it was someone burning brush or trash. Most of the farmers use the cut and burn method of cleaning fields. What that means is after the rice has been removed in the harvest the rest is burned. I'm told that the ash is good for the soil, too.

For the last three days, Monks have been chanting next door as the Mother, age 83, died. Hundreds of people have been coming to her home, visiting with family members, eating and paying their respects.

That is a lot of dishes to wash from the hundreds of folks that come to pay their last respects.

Daeng has been helping out with the food and the feeding of these hundreds of folks. That is a pretty big core in itself. I don't quite understand but I'm told that how big a party you throw and how much you give to the temple makes a difference of were you will go in the next life.

We'll today was the last day of this ceremony. They closed off the street completely around 10:00 AM. We had just got back from buying more paint.

By the way, good paint is about the same price here as it is California. Maybe that's why they don't paint a lot here.

People started to arrive dressed in black, orange or white depending if they were Monks, close family or just mourners.

The only black shirt I have in my wardrobe has NA on it so I ask Daeng if that would be okay with black shoes, black socks and blue denim pants. She told me that would be fine as many other men would be waring bluejeans and black t-shirts.

I would guess that at least three hundred people, maybe more, showed up for the noon meal and service. Everyone eat and then the close family and the Monks went in two lines holding onto a ropes hooked to the truck that was loaded with the coffin and flowers. Kind of like they were pulling it. I think that was the way they did it in the old days.

They did this for about a fifty meters and then they jumped onto pick-ups, motorbikes or cars and drive to the cremation site. I had never visited one but had seen many along the roads. They look like little houses with big smoke stacks.

They are usually all by themselves with shaded sitting areas around this house and nothing else, no houses, etc., around them. I'm told that people don't want to live or be around these crematoriums as they feel ghosts are there.

We followed the sound truck, the pick-up with the speakers and sound system, to the barbecue site. It was out in the country on the west side of this little border town. Sure enough, a little house with a big chimney and hundreds of places to sit.

The truck with the flowers and casket pulled up and parked by the front stairs and set up for some sort of service. I wish I could understand more Thai. I think they were praying and different people from different parts of the village giving envelopes with money as offerings.

One Monk threw these things that looked like Hersey Candy Kisses. They were coins wrapped in gold covered paper. I'm told that some of the papers had a number written on it and if you got one you won that amount of money.

After many pictures of family and friends a large group of people, I guess anyone that wanted to, picked up the casket and flowers and carried them up into the crematorium.

Then everyone filed up the front stairs to pay their last respects to this lady, who I'm told, that had lived here all her life. Each person placed a kind of paper and bamboo, hand made flower by the casket in the crematorium. Then the men came down the steps on the right and the ladies used the steps on the left.

A lot of people left at that time but a few members stayed to watch the fire being lite. Charcoal was being used.

When the smoke started coming out of the chimney we all started to leave.

Daeng got upset at me as I started to pick up a cigarette that a young Monk had thrown on the ground and give it back to him. She said I should not do that as I wasn't the "Don't trash Thailand Police!"

It definitely was a Big Barbecue.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Great Wall

This all started back when we bought this double shop house this spring. There was nothing on the second floor of this concrete, three story building. We thought is would make a great master bedroom and master bath.

We had almost everything done before we left Thailand, for the summer, except one wall. The reason we did not do that wall is we wanted the wall about three feet from the support beam. Everyone here kept telling us not to build the wall out of masonry as the concrete floor was not strong enough.
I said lets build it out of metal studs and dry wall just like we do it in America. I said metal because the bugs here eat up wood is a short time and wood is very expensive in Thailand as all the trees have been cut down.

Well, no one here had ever seen what I'm talking about and the metal track and studs were not available.

When we came back to Thailand this fall we spent a few days in Pattaya were a high number of Expats live. We visited a HOME MART and they had the metal and the wall board called "Smartboard". They also told us that the HOME MART in Chiang Rai carried everything. That is only about 50 kilometer south of us.

When we took Daeng's sister, "Mon", to stay with her brother last month we stopped at HOME MART in Chiang Rai to buy the 5 lengths of metal track, 21 studs, 26 cross members, 11 sheets of Smartboard, 500 screws for the metal fabrication, 600 screws to install the wall board, 25 kilograms of plaster, four rolls of joint tape and a few tools to make it happen.
They had everything except the screws to put the metal together with. The man keep trying to sell me regular sheet rock screws. If we used those the head stick out and the Smartboard will not fit correctly. Any way we did not buy the other materials as we were afraid we would be stuck without the correct screws.
I spent at least 10 visits to hardware stores and everyone tried to sell me the sheet rock screws and they are about 1/5th the cost of the correct screws so no one here uses the correct ones.

We are talking about $9.00 USD more for five hundred screws. 3/4" dry wall screws are 75 Thai Baht for 500 and the 3/8" pan head zip screws are 375 Thai Baht per 500. When a skilled tradesman works for 350 TB a day it's a lot of money.
Even our friends in Chiang Mai, Brian & Noochy, tried to locate the screws without success. Chiang Mai is the second biggest city in Thailand. They got the same story about using sheet rock screws over and over every hardware store they visited or telephoned.

I talked to the lady at the HOME MART that I usually do business with here in Mae Sai. She told me that they now carry the metal studs and the Smartboard but gave me the same story about the screws. I sat with her and explained why the sheet rock screws don't work well.

She said she would get the correct screws and would have them in three days. I have had her order things before, like the 8" pipe we installed, and she has always been right on with things.

We gave her an order for the metal studs, track, cross members & screws. She said she could delivered everything that day except the screws.

I watched to be sure they loaded the correct stuff for delivery as my order was the first order out of their warehouse. I got laughing as the metal stud come two together which makes it easy for storage. That means they had to separate one set as I ordered 21 studs.

After watching seven men try to take apart the two studs for about 10 minutes I showed then the trick of leather gloves and a screwdriver to start the separation at one end.

It was like the question: "How many Thai men does it take to take apart two metal studs?" The answer: "One Farang!" Farang is the term for a non-Thai.
I'm only kidding as now that they know how to do the separation it will be easy for them to do the next order.

We started installing the track with special concrete screws that we brought from the USA.

The special screws have a coating on them so that all you have to do is drill the exact size hole in the concrete and they run in the screws. No anchors have to be installed. These special screws worked great.

I'm old and work slow so it took me the three days to put in the track on the ceiling and floor myself. I knew the screws would take the full three days so I didn't push very hard,

The screws came in on time and we started putting the studs up and installing the redwood door jams. They use really heavy duty door jams here as they usually are installed in block and concrete walls. The jams have to hold up the masonry over them.

Also the wall we're putting up is thinner than a block wall that has been rendered so I had to have the door company cut the jams down to the correct size.

Things went well. I had never put up a metal stud wall but I had framed in wood walls before. I framed it the same way as a wood wall and doubled the fire stops, the cross pieces, to make the wall stronger as a heavy Teak & Redwood door was going to be in the middle of the wall.

Daeng helped me do most of the studs. I also learned a few tricks like using a set of locking pliers, like the Vice-Grip brand, to hold the metal together while running the screws. They work like a third hand.

After running almost 700 screws to put the metal together we rested for two days as my hands were sore.

We also had some fun. On Sunday, after church at Childlife with the kids, we went with our friend, Pastor Lota, to his "Akha" home village to a Thanksgiving celebration. We eat too much but had a great time.

Daeng and I then put up the inside of the wall using this Smartboard. It is a concrete/fiber board that looks like Asbestos Cement but does not contain Asbestos. It is .8 cm, about 1/4 inch, thick and a 120 cm x 280 cm (4' x 9') piece weighs about 88 pounds. We cut it with a 4" grinder using a diamond saw blade. That worked great but very dusty.

I used tricks that I had learn from working with Merle Cage, a builder in Vestal, New York, when I was a youngster of 17. We put 510 screws in the Smartboard. Now my hands are really sore.

I installed the electrical wires, boxes and everything needed for the switches for the two lights in our master suite and plugs on both sides of the door.

After the electricial was installed Daeng, her nephew Kit and I installed the insulation. We installed the insulation for two reasons. First, to cut the cost of cooling and second to help make it quieter.

We had been talking with a furniture maker about making built in furniture for our master bedroom. We called him to see if he could help with the other side of the Smartboard wall and hang the door. He came the next day and hung the door just like a professional. He also helped cut and put up the other five sheets of wall board. He returned the next day and finished putting in the 557 screws.
Yep, 1067 screws for the Smartboard and almost 700 screws for the metal fabrication. That is a lot of screwing!

Now, the Smartboard needs to be taped and plastered just like dry wall. Gypsum is a name also use to describe dry wall as it is a brand name of the company that makes it. Thbis is like "Scotch" brand tape. The reason it is not used much here in Thailand is Thailand is a very wet climate most of the year. Dry wall does not hold up to water very well, Smartboard does.
Daeng talked to a friend that told Daeng her husband is a plaster/painter. He came and looked at our project and we talked him into taking a little vacation from his present job and doing our work. He did not want to contract the job so we agreed to pay him and his Burmese helper a thousand Thai Baht a day, about $33.00 USD. He was happy with that as that doubles his pay working for us.
I'm glad with hired him as he works very clean and put plastic curtain to keep the dust down in the rest of the house.
We will post pictures of the completed Master Suite when it's completed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trip to the Dentist

As we live and write about our adventures we must remember that blogging is not really connecting with you. It is more like narcissism masquerading as connection. But what the hell, it is all about us!

We do hope you enjoy sharing our adventures with us.

It was time to visit the dentist, again. Daeng called and the dentist said she was not busy so if we came right now she could see both of us. We just hopped on the old motorbike and popped into the dentist's office.

Let me talk about dental treatment in this little border town of about 22,000 people on the Myanmar (Burma) border in Thailand. This dental office is a husband and wife operation where the husband runs the office, answers the telephone and helps out. His wife, the dentist, speaks understandable English and uses all the western methods of doing dental work.

Daeng got into the chair first and had one very large cavity filled and one small, surface cavity filled along with her teeth cleaned and polished up.

We talked about the bridge work color on the bridge she had done last year. She said she would redo the bridge if we wanted. Daeng said it was okay as it was in the very back on the lower left side and it was close enough to the color of her other teeth.

I got into the chair and had my teeth checked and had two teeth smoothed out and polished.

We thanked her and promised to return in six months. Our total bill, for both of us, was 1000 Thai Baht, around $33.00 US dollars. Yes, that was for both of us.
Life is good.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Although Halloween also known as All Saints Day is not celebrated in Thailand, except in the tourist areas, we wanted to wish everyone a Happy and Fun Halloween.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Fall in Church

Now with the title of "My Fall in Church" you would think of something spiritual.

Nope, I fell down the flight of stairs while leaving the Church after Sunday Service, yesterday.

I was wearing black, smooth, dress up socks and as I came down the stairs, after a little picture taking, I slipped and fell.

Remember, in Thailand you take your shoes off before you enter a building.

I didn't think I was hurt after I walked a little.

One sore butt cheek and my two toes on my right foot were a little sore.

This morning I noticed two of my toes were black and blue. Daeng insisted I go to the KASEMRAD Hospital Clinic.

We hopped on the motorbike and arrived around 9:05 AM. We signed in. I had been there before so it was easy. All I had to do was give them my name as they have everything on computer.
They told us the Doctor would be in about 10:00 AM so we walked across the street and ate.

I had a Chinese, yellow noodle, fish soup. They laughed at me as Thais eat noodles with chop-sticks. I ate them with a fork and spoon, Italian style, rolling the noodles up on the fork.

Back to the hospital clinic at 10:00 and waited only about five minutes before we saw the Doctor. He spoke English and told me he didn't think it was broken but if I could afford it he would like to take x-rays.

I said: "Yes, Good!" We went to the X-ray Department in the next office, took the two X-rays, waited about five minutes, went back into the office the Doctor was in and looked at the X-rays together.

There were no breaks of fractures. He prescribed some Nimesulide and Danzen for pain and swelling that we picked up at the front desk.

It was 10:37 AM as we paid the total bill for the drugs, Doctor, X-rays and hospital clinic. The total was 630 Thai Baht ($21,00 USD).

All done in one hour and thirty-two minutes, including breakfast.

Hell, that is a lot better than Obama Care! Wake up America!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two weeks at Home in Mae Sai, Thailand

It's 5:30 AM on Sunday morning. Our friends Chuck and Ray called us from California to say "Hello".

They also wanted to let us know they were thinking about returning to Thailand with us when we return in the Spring of 2011.

It's been two weeks that we have been back to this little town, Mae Sai, on the Myanmar (Burma) border. One of the great parts of being back is we can buy a whole, cut up pineapple for about 6 Thai Baht; that's US 18 cents.
Our home is on the south side of town so we are about four (4) kilometers from the actual border bridge into Myanmar.

The shop house is on "Official Thai Land". Before we lived on disputed land; kind of like the West Bank but no rockets or bombs in about ten (10) years. At that time, Mae Sai was evacuated because the Burmese Army was supposedly fighting the Shan Rebel Army.

Please remember that we are not judging, we are just saying!

Being on "Official Land" means we have a deed to the land and the building.

Mae Sai has 14 villages with approximately 22,000 people. Yep, BIG city life.

Our rest stop in Pattaya was very relaxing. We both gained about three kilo's (6.6 pounds) during our short stay at the beach. We love that area and all the diversification.

When we say diversity we are talking about the food, the people and the entertainment.

Most Thai folks are happy to have you take picturs and smile when you are taking their pictures. In this bakery I was asked not to take any pictures. Maybe they thought I would steal their recipes. I was told: "No Pictures!" after I took this one.

We did find the chicken soup lady. She sold her shop on Soi 13/2 and bought a special Tuk-Tuk made into a soap wagon. It is pretty neat. She has great chicken soup, also. To read more about Tuk-Tuk's just CLICK HERE.

We have done a few things during the last two weeks. We finished up the roof drains that were still not hooked up.

We had two birthdays and a little Birthday Cake to go with the Happy Birthday Singing.

We went to a "New House" party. That is a party to celebrate the completion of your new home. Food, a little service to bless the house and everyone, then more food and beverages, then more food and more food. I had trouble getting onto the motorbike due to eating so much.
"Bang", one of Hlong's adopted kids. Hlong is Daeng's sister-in-law. I know, you need a score card to keep up with the names.

Anyway, Bang was married in May of this year and moved with her husband to Bangkok to work and put away a nest egg. You can read about her wedding by CLICKING HERE and going to the bottom of the story.

Bang is now expectant. "Expectant" is what they coined pregnancy on "I Love Lucy" show about fifty years ago. I guess I just dated myself.
Bang has morning sickness ALL DAY so she can't work at her restaurant job in Bangkok. She came back to Northern Thailand for a little while to hope she will get over that part of having a baby. She'll then return to Bangkok and work for a few more months.

She gets up early in the morning, cleans some and starts ironing in the laundry. It's nice to see a house guest pitch in and help.
One of Daeng's sisters, her name is "Mon", came down with tuberculosis and had to move back to where her house of record is in Chiang Rai. That is about 50 kilometers south. I don't fully understand the system but here in Thailand everyone has a home of record. That is like a permanent residence. They call it a "House book" record.
Her "House Book" record is at her brother's home in Chiang Rai. She does not have a "National ID Card" so she is not qualified for the national medical. What that means is in order to get health care she has to be visited by a nurse once a week at that address to get her treatment for free.

Daeng's Mother also went with her and will stay for a month or two until Mon can take care of herself, again.

We tried to do it with a little laughter, funny face masks and all.
One of the nice things that happened with Mon getting sick is Daeng's brother, "Pooie", drove his motorbike from Chiang Mai, with two kids on it. They came to see Mon but stayed a few days visiting other family members.

On the left of the picture is Daeng's Brother, "Tun". On the right is "Pooie".

That is correct, 300 miles on a 100 cc motorbike with two kids.

I had met Pooie and his family before on a trip to Chiang Mai. While he was here he also fixed a leak on our roof. It was a crack in a grout line between a row of roof tile.

Life goes on with fresh bananas, pineapple, coconuts and warm, moist weather here on the Myanmar (Burma) border.

And don't forget the happy kids.