Another mix of stories covering activities the last couple of weeks. A medical scare with Gaun’s mama, my rant on why be an Aussie citizen, an evening at a forest wat, out and about with friends, a guessing competition (with no prizes) for a colourful local school event, a return to one of my favourite wats in the area, cacti and yet more cacti and breakfast on the move. As always a broad mix of small stories reflecting the varied life we lead.
Introduction – Skip if you are a regular reader
You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai but fewer make the effort to record what living in the northeast (Isaan) out this way looks like.
None of my stories is spectacular and will never be found in the search results of tourists looking for adventure. However, most of the readers who follow this blog, and there are some who have become “virtual ” friends over the years, are people who have a much more committed and personal connection to Thailand and have moved well beyond elephant riding, zip-lining and bar hopping. For them, these little insights help maintain that connection to village life if they are living elsewhere, and for those who are newer to the scene maybe help with understanding what a life in rural Thailand might look like if that ever happens for them.
These stories are extracted from my Facebook page, which I use as a mini-blog to give me an everyday outlet for my enjoyment of words, photography and of course the wonderful lifestyle I am privileged to enjoy. They are very day by day accounts as a result. I hope you enjoy them.
P.S. I will add some of my older posts from April 2018 onwards soon, which although more out of date still have relevance to observing life here for those with an interest.
26 Aug 2018 – Worried About Mama
The family unit is such a central element to life here in rural Isaan that I thought I would give you a little insight of this.
Gaun’s mama had a medical situation late yesterday and it was heartwarming to see the breadth of family support that swung into action as a result.
Normally mama sleeps alone but last night Paed, one of Gaun’s older sisters, moved in and also my stepdaughter Peng went from our house to spend the night. Paed needed to start work at the farm by 4:00 am so Gaun took over until later in the morning when she handed over to a sister-in-law. Yuan and Lud took the next shift after delivering vegetables to the market and have now taken mama to see a monk in a neighbouring village organised by Noi, the eldest sister (not all medical situations are seen as physical). Neighbours have been popping in all day to make sure mama is OK.
It’s not to say that we have lost this sort of caring in western society, although I doubt it is generally as strong as here, but our families are spread over such an area that an immediate response like this mostly can’t happen.
Yuan and Lud are going to be taking mama out to the farm every day for a while so that they can keep an eye on her and I guarantee all the local farmers will be calling in to make sure she has company.
28 Aug 2018 – Mama in Hospital
I am sorry to report that she has suffered a stroke and is in hospital recovering. We took her to the hospital at Si Bun Ruang yesterday evening and she was quickly transferred to the big hospital at Nong Bua Lamphu for tests using equipment the small place didn’t have. Tests completed at midnight they brought her back to SBR early this morning.
It is early days for assessing what the longer term effects are but she has trouble talking, can’t walk ATM but Peng reports that she was smiling this evening. Family and friends have been terrific with shifts of people making sure she is never alone. Family have been arriving from as far away as Bangkok and villagers and neighbours have been calling in to see her all day.
We haven’t had power all day otherwise I would have reported this earlier. I won’t make this private situation a public affair but I will let you know how things are going from time to time. She’s a lovely lady, a quiet presence in my Isaan family, and I am hoping for the best possible outcome so that she can get back to her main job of cooking sticky rice for the family every morning at 4:00 am
30 Aug 2018 – Is There a Benefit of Being an Australian Citizen?
The benefit of being an Australian citizen is hard to define once one leaves the country. As a non-resident I am taxed at the same high rate as a non-citizen, my medical access is restricted, I have to return to live in Australia for two years to lock in my aged pension after it is paid and that’s unlikely due to asset and income tests.
Added to this list on non-benefits I can add that fact that if I want to get a document witnessed at the embassy in Bangkok I now have to make an appointment, even though every time I have been there I was the only person attending. I get to pay 1,700 baht only by credit/debit card (previously cash was OK) for the privilege.
Citizenship of any country should bring with it a suite of benefits and governments should be asking what more can they do to add value to being a citizen for the people who help make countries what they are.
That’s my rant for the year. For Aussies reading please note that you DO now need to make an appointment to have documents witnessed – say a stat dec for income for an annual retirement visa extension. Link here: https://bit.ly/2wtsnxI
A couple of comments from my Facebook page:
I couldn’t believe how much it was myself Tony when I had to get my Non O visa income declaration signed. Especially when I worked for nearly 40 years in a public servant role as a Police Officer and in that time signed thousands of Stat Decs and witnessed signatures for Australian citizens FOR FREE!
If my wife and I bought land in Thailand, the land would only legally belong to my wife under Thai law. However the Australian law says it would be included in an assets test as my wife would own the land legally by Thai law. If we built a house on the land and rented it out, the income would also be counted along with my pension (future) income. If we decide to rent out our home in Australia and live in Thailand, the rent income would also be included in my pension income. So…when I reach retirement age I will have paid taxes for 52 years. So what exactly are the benefits of doing so? Seeing the sunrise on the way home after many a 12 hour shift. Paying the family home off, even when the interest rates were 18%, that was fun. Plus the fuzzy feeling of helping the dole bludgers. I’ll have to stop here my typing finger has arthritis!
3 Sept 2018 – Mama Back Home
Good news with Gaun’s mama. She has been back at home for a few days since her time in hospital and the last four days has been able to take short walks. When she first came home she wasn’t able to walk or talk and had little strength in her right arm. Now she is positively chatty, which for mama is about three words in a row (sometimes) and is much improved. A way to go but my fear that she might be permanently incapacitated or have a long recovery looks to be unfounded (phew).
All the family are very relieved and have rallied around, as you’d expect, and friends and villagers have been a constant flow through the hospital and now home, where she is based. Lovely to see. This afternoon we took mama for a test walk for photos
The three local daughters do a rotating shift to look after her. Yuan (Gaun’s younger sister) sleeps at the farm so she can pick vegetables at 3:00 am to take to the market early. Peng is sleeping at mama’s house as we kicked her out of home for some friends we have staying (sorry Peng) and Gaun’s older sister Paed sleeps with her to look after mama. At 4:00 am Paed goes to the farm for harvesting and Gaun walks over from our home to take over.
Yuan returns from the markets about 7:00 am and is the main day-shift supervisor with lots of help from others. As an example Gaun’s uncle who’s in his late 70’s and lives in a village a few km away bicycles over many mornings to spend time with mama.
4 Sept 2018 – An Evening at a Wat
We dropped into the one of our local forest temples, Wat Pa Silawa, last evening with friends who are staying with us to join the chanting session with monks and villagers. Always a big welcome (I got the sweets) and a great opportunity to be part of a community event.
5 Sept 2018 – On the Road with Friends
We have had friends from Canberra staying with us for a few days and this gave us the opportunity to share our love of local Isaan sights and happenings, which is always a pleasure. Thank you Bob Sekhon and Jasbeer Sekhon for including us on your overseas holiday travels. A few photos covering few aspects from a couple of our trips.
Greg Ledder It was lovely to Meet Bob & Jasbeer Tony – Thank you for bringing them to see us. What a really lovely couple – I hope we get to meet them again some day!
5 Sept 2018 – Guess What
I will post a few photos from this morning and you can try and work out what heading I would have given them based on the actual celebration. I will give the answer with the last photo. Where else can you start the day like this? I won’t add words but just let you enjoy the captured moments of this terrific event.
5 Sept 2018 – Return to Wat Pa See Vichi
Today, leaving the sports day we called into see friends who have a shop in Si Bun Ruang. There we met not only Doug Acker and his partner Pu but also Michael Cromer and partner Pepsi. Always a pleasure to see them.
While us guys were having a peaceful cuppa in a cafe the ladies ganged up and decided they wanted to visit a timber temple in Nong Bua Lamphu, a 30 minute drive, I had discovered thanks to a recommendation from Greg Ledderfrom Noi’s Kitchen. Peng had joined us for the day so we headed off in a three pickup convoy.
I have written and photographed this temple, which is called Wat Pa See Vichi/Wichi, before but each time I visit I can’t help but take a few more. Our friends were very impressed, which only emphasises why this wat should be on everyone’s list as a ‘must do’ if spending time in this part of Isaan.
Greg Ledder This place never fails to impress Tony – simply amazing!
5 Sept 2018 – Buddhist cacti!
The other attraction for this wat is the extensive cactus nursery they have on the right hand side of the main building. Cultivating the cactus provides the monks with work outside their Buddhist activities and also raises cash for further development of the temple.
I have never taken an interest in cactus before thinking they were pretty boring, or the ones I had seen in cowboy movies were anyway Goodness what an incredible variety and what’s on display here is only a small example I am sure.
The number of new entries for this one day is an indication of just how varied and interesting life is here for this Aussie guy, who some time ago thought life didn’t have too much to offer. Thank you Isaan.
6 Sept 2018 – A Passing Breakfast
I have said before that wait long enough and everything passes the front gate. Today it was Gaun’s breakfast. A small pickup with a loudspeaker was advertising green sticky rice, which is actually quite tasty. 40 baht and Gaun has enough to dip into all day! A lovely husband and wife team.
It is always so pleasing to see little entrepreneurship happening. In Australia you’d never do something like this because of the regulations and costs. Here – have pickup and loud speaker and you can sell anything you want
Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment if you have enjoyed this post.; It is the only payment I ask for My thanks to Mike, Chris, Geoff, Richard, Glyn, Jenny and Hans for taking the time to leave a comment on my last post ‘Two Wats and a Pink ID Card’ HERE. You know who you are and they were much appreciated.