Monday, 30 April 2007

The St George's Ball - (Chris wore his kilt!!)

This was the first proper ball I have ever been to - I had an amazing dress made for me by Khun Dao which was based on a John-Paul Gaultier design - she did such a good job of it. (I bought a lovely little black bag to go with it and Chris treated me to some sparkly earrings). We had really good fun and although it was the St George's Ball us Scots outnumbered the English on our table!! (Which was quite funny when it came to the singing and flag waving.....)

I have to say that I have never laughed so much in my life!! Before we had even left the apartment I had inadvertently managed to traumatise Dawan (although I think perhaps I was the more traumatised of the two of us) - Chris was getting ready in the other bedroom so we didn't get in each other's way (Moon doesn't work on a Saturday) so when there was a knock at the bedroom door I assumed it was Chris. No, it was Fa and Dawan and all I was wearing was a pair of pants!! (Dawan's eyes were out on stocks - I don't think he had ever seen boobs that big before!!). Then it was Chris's turn for the humiliation - he appeared (looking very handsome in his kilt) and Moon took one look at him and roared 'Same Same Katoey', which means same same lady boy, and proceeded to double up with laughter .

Then, when we were leaving the apartment, the security guard took one look at him and started laughing. Normally there are taxi's going up and down our Soi all the time but there were none at all so we had to walk to the main road to get one. I toddled along behind Chris giggling as I watched a wee man on his bike nearly crash because he was so busy staring at the weird Farang in a skirt. The people that were sitting down to eat their dinner (Most Thai's eat at stalls on the street) stopped eating and stared open mouthed (and then started laughing) and then a man walked past Chris and cheerfully announced 'Suai' (which means beautiful) to which Chris replied 'Come on - it's law surely' (law means handsome). I have never seen Chris look so happy to see a taxi in my life - it was very funny!!

The ball itself was brilliant and the food was fantastic - Smoked Salmon salad, Roast Beef with all the trimmings, Bread and Butter pudding and then cheese and crackers (Yummy). (Actually was surprised that I didn't burst out of my dress given all the food we ate!!). Our friend Belinda got a major fit of the giggles after a couple of glasses of wine and just could not stop laughing (not helped by the fact that Chris kept making derogatory comments about people that were very funny!!), Rodger, who was sitting next to me, had me in stitches with his dancing (That's him and Louise on the right), Grant (Gordon's son - Gordon was the one at our dinner party with the hair-dryer!!) was horrified by the fact that I discovered that he was a Donna Summer fan and Julie (The Chair of the BWG) really got into the singing and flag waving as you can see. The band they had were really good.......Chris got up and danced - he actually offered (and he did it more than once) although he couldn't compete with Snake Hips and Son (which is what we are now calling Gordon and Grant after witnessing their bum wiggling). Still full from dinner neither of us could face the breakfast that had been served so we called it quits at about 2am.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

General Update

Well, it's been all go here!! I've had a chat with a lawyer (head of immigration for a large law firm) and unfortunately the Thai work permit rules do apply here for both writers and artists. I asked about the option of getting a UK agent to represent me but was told that a UK agent would need to get in touch with a Thai agent who would then have to sponsor the work permit (The actual work permit only costs 3,000 baht, which is about £40, but the sponsor would need to have 3 million baht in the bank, fill in a silly amount of paperwork and there would still be no guarantee). I spoke with Chris and Wellie, the woman that owns Pandora, and we have decided that we are going to go ahead with the exhibition - the beneficiaries being an Elephant Charity that Wellie wants to support and the BWG Welfare Fund that I want to support. My opening night will be Saturday 8th of September and all I've got to do is produce about 30 pieces of work by then (30 pieces of work!!!.......It didn't seem that much till I wrote it down!! Why did I think this was a good idea???)

My new position with the BWG is going well (Jo - I've still not been asked to make jam so it's all good!!). I met with the Human Resources Manager of Oxfam Bangkok and had a long chat about how the BWG and Oxfam could work together. I expected the meeting to last about half an hour but two hours later we were still chatting away and swapping ideas. He told me that if he had the budget he would hire me on the spot and then asked me if I would be willing to volunteer with them. He would like me to head up and expand their volunteer section as well as help them short list candidates for positions in Cambodia, Laos, Manilla and Myanmar (Burma). I've told him that I have a number of commitments that I must honour before I can take anything else on and that I will think about it. (Actually I told him that I will probably get involved after September). At the moment I need time to get the BWG stuff up and running which will involve a lot of work initially but once it's established some of my time should be freed up so that I can take on the role at Oxfam. (Honestly, I've never been so busy - I was looking at my diary today to see when I would be able to visit the Training Centre for the blind and was horrified to discover that I am completely booked up for the whole of May......we're not even into May yet!!)

What else has been happening - Oh, we've booked to go away for our Wedding Anniversary (I'm soooo excited about it). Not long after we arrived here I won two nights stay at a Hotel in Hua Hin called The Anantara at a raffle so I contacted them and we're going to stay there on Sunday 13th of May and Monday 14th of May. It looks absolutely beautiful (Clink on the link here and you'll see what I mean). It's only about a three hour drive from Bangkok so we are going to hire a car and driver to take us up there on the Sunday morning and come back for us on the Tuesday. I can't wait - It will be our first trip out of Bangkok on our own!!

Poor Chris is still working like a maniac trying to get this project done and dusted so that we can get our flights to the UK booked (Ha.....and you thought you'd escaped!!) - there is still a way to go but he is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel (which is making us both happy!!). We're still aiming for the end of May beginning of June so watch this space!!!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Bangkok Slum Update

I have written this post and deleted it about four times - I can't quite find the right words.

The last time we visited the slum there was nothing but devastation (The photo shows how bad it was). All that could be seen of the homes that had been here were buckled pieces of metal and charred bits of wood. No new building work was being done and the future looked bleak.

I think I just have to say

Thank You.

Thank you to every BWG member who has ever bought a raffle ticket or put change into the alms bowl or done their bit to raise money.......look what their money has done!!!

This is a photo of the house the BWG members have paid for

This is a picture of the woman who's family is going to live there.
(Everyone who had been made homeless as a result of the fire had their names put in a hat - her name was pulled out)

This is her standing in the doorway of her new home. The BWG have provided shelter for three generations of her family......isn't that amazing!!!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

We have been invaded......

by a group of small Thai's!! (I know we were never going to be invaded by a group of big Thai's but these ones are particularly small). We currently have Moon's two children, Fa (11) and Dawan (6), staying with us (They arrived on Wednesday) and have had Min (Moon's sister Mai's little girl), whose also 11, visiting us everyday. OH MY GOD WE ARE SURROUNDED!!! (That's Fa on the left and Min on the right) Fortunately they are all very sweet and very well behaved - I dread to think what would have happened had they been little horrors (Chris and I are not famed for our patience).

Anyway, it is Moon's 30th Birthday today which we decided to celebrate yesterday (She doesn't work on a Saturday). Moon and Dawan had popped out to say goodbye to a friend of hers so Fa, Min and I went out to the supermarket and bought the ingredients we would need to make her a birthday cake. (We also bought a little present for her (a purse that Fa picked) from one of the stalls so Fa, Dawan and Min had something to give her). I decided that we would attempt to make a sponge cake with raspberry and mascarpone cream (That way we needed two sponges so the two girls could be in charge of a cake tin each). The girls had great fun measuring things, mixing things and getting to taste things as they went into the bowl (Small fingers were dipped into everything - the raspberry fromage frais was a huge hit). Moon joined in when she got back (As you can tell from the photo). The cake turned out beautifully (Good old Delia!!) and I breathed a sigh of relief as it was the 2nd cake I have ever made (Probably helped make more than that when I was wee but don't really remember).

Silence descended as they all went away to get changed (Chris and I are really beginning to appreciate those silences) and then they appeared again all dressed up with Mai in tow. We made a big fuss of Moon and had a laugh as she opened her pressies. I had been to a place called Desert Diamonds (The manufacture diamonds which are absolutely beautiful and nowhere near as expensive as the real deal) and had bought her a solitaire diamond necklace. It's gorgeous (am temped to get one for myself) and really sparkled against her skin - she was thrilled to bits (well.....your only 30 once!!). We then headed out to Lemonchello (a great Italian place on Soi 11 - Think I have mentioned it before) for pizza. The kids were hilarious........Min and Fa were not entirely convinced by the pizza (It probably didn't help that Moon drowned it in tomato ketchup and chilli) but Dawan just got stuck right in - we got some great photos. Chris and Moon had a pretend fight to keep him entertained and we all laughed a lot. When we got back to the apartment we brought the cake through and sang happy birthday (Oh, and we ate some once we had managed to rescue the cake from Moon - very nice it was too!!). She gave me a big cuddle at the end of the night and said told me that it was one of the best birthday's she had ever had.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

A few days away from my computer and look what happens....

Oh My God!! My computer screen has gone native!!! I wrote my blog on Saturday and everything was hunky dorey but when I turned on my computer today all the wording has mysteriously turned from English to Thai!! I think it might be a conspiracy to stop me from blogging (I'm not paranoid......I know everyone is out to get me!!). Anyway, I am now having to guess where everything is (Because I cant figure out how to change it back) so if this ends up as only half a posting you know why......

Chris and I have had a lovely few days together (You can tell we've only been married a short time - we still actually enjoy each others company) as the office was closed over Songkran. We had debated about going away somewhere for a bit of a holiday but decided that it would be nice to stay in Bangkok (We're hoping to go to Hua Hin for Wedding Anniversary next month) but to treat ourselves we would have a night in a hotel in Bangkok. Not wanting to tempt fate but not able to resist the allure of the big pink building we booked another room at The Reflection Rooms Hotel (That's us now spent two New years there - thankfully there were no bombs this time). We were in the Taj Mahal (And you thought we were in Thailand!!) suite and it was absolutely beautiful!!! The room was painted a sumptuous deep red, had chandeliers in the bathroom and a stunning view across the pool and the restaurant. I went and had a massage at the spa (which was lovely once I had got over the fact that the masseuse was a man) while Chris sat by the pool reading his book and drinking beer then we got changed and went to the restaurant for dinner. God the food is good there (although I had slight reservations about the band......The Lady In Red was played, along with that hideous song by James Blunt (This prompted Chris to say 'Come back James Blunt all is forgiven) and the theme from Titanic to name but a few) we had two starters which we shared, followed by a selection of four different dishes for our main course, dessert and drinks (I am still on the soda water before you say anything) and it came to under £15.

The rest of our time was spent hiding from hoards of water pistol touting Thai's (It's fun getting soaked the first day but gets a bit tiring after that - you have to think about what your wearing, wrap your mobile, money etc in plastic's a hassle) so was spent eating, shopping and going to the movies. We saw 23 which we both quite enjoyed (I don't mind Jim Carey when he's in a straight acting role but can't stand his overacting (not to mention gurning) when he's in a comedy role), The Reaping which was quite good (very fire and brimstone) and Pan's Labyrinth which was absolutely fantastic (a good old fashioned proper fairytale which I recommend if you've not seen it). We had a lovely meal at an Indonesian Restaurant called Bali (it is on Soi Ruam Rudi - nearest BTS is Phloen Chit) which we ate at when we came for our 'look see' last July but had not managed to get back to (I am happy to say that the food was as good as we remembered it), I introduced Chris to the wonders of the Thai food court voucher system at MBK (We had a lovely Indian lunch for 100 baht each - which works out around £1.40) and we decided to try out our table top cooker (Mum bought me it ages ago and we'd not got round to trying it) so had a lovely meal in. We had vegetables with melted cheese over them as a starter followed by my home-made Chicken Satay - It took us a while to get the hang of the cooker (didn't realise that the light goes off once it reaches a certain temperature then switches on again when it starts to cool) but, once we had it sussed, it was lovely sitting chatting and listening to the satay sizzle as it cooked next to us.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Sawatdee Pi Maï - "Happy New Year"

Before I tell you what we got up to yesterday I will tell you a bit about the rituals associated with New Year.

The Thai New Year, also known as Songkran, is celebrated every year from the 13th to the 15th of April and is the time when Thai people return home to visit family and to pay respect to the elders around the neighbourhood (Moon headed off to Issan on Thursday). Buddah images in the temples are cleaned with water and perfume as it is believed that this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year and, in some cities, the statues are actually paraded through the streets so that people can wash them as they pass by (I'd like to see them try that with the solid gold one in China Town!!). Apparently it is also common for people to carry handfuls of sand to their local temple in order to recompense for the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year - The sand is then piled into large tiered piles and decorated (a bit like a big sandcastle). Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal and water is very heavily associated with it. Originally pouring a small amount of water on other people's hands was done as a sign of respect but now the most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water - people actually roam the streets with bowls of water, water pistols or even a garden hose, and drench each other and everyone else. (Can you guess what we did yet??)

My god we had so much fun yesterday!! We headed out in the early afternoon for some lunch (We had gone round to Georgie and Ben's for dinner the night before and it turned into a bit of a late one) and were soaked before we had even got the the BTS (Skytrain). We were passing Time Square when we saw a small group of very wet children who's faces lit up when they saw us!! The bowls that were in their hands were dunked into a huge barrel of water and we were ambushed!! We had lunch by the window of the restaurant and we just could not stop laughing - There were people walking along the pavement absolutely soaked to the skin, people chasing each other firing water pistols and pickup trucks going past full of people all armed with water pistols firing at anything and everything that moved. We had heard that Khao San Road was THE place to go so we headed home, got changed, filled our water pistols and headed out.

The security guards at the apartment block next to ours stopped us (I forgot to mention that people also mix plaster with water to make a paste - Monks use this when giving blessings so it is considered good luck to have this put on your face) and made hand prints on our cheeks and poured some water over our hands. We then sneaked past the dancing, water throwing people on the corner of our Soi by cutting through the Sukhumvit Centre (Figured we wouldn't be able to get a taxi if we were soaked) and were standing watching the fun when suddenly a waitress with a water pistol opened the door of the restaurant we were standing next to and fired!! When we turned round there was a giggling gaggle of waiters and waitresses at the door

Anyway, we got a taxi and headed over to Khao San Road - The place was absolutely heaving and we ended up getting dropped off miles away from where we wanted to be!! The main road had been blocked to stop cars getting in and all we could see was a river of people obviously heading for the same place we were. It was absolutely brilliant - the entire street was lined with people (young and old) with barrels of water, hoses and water pistols and we were absolutely drenched within seconds of getting out the taxi!!. (The photo on the right is Chris firing at a girl as she is firing at me - her boyfriend is doing the weird fingers thing). We had people sneaking up behind us and pouring bowls of water down our backs to which we would retaliate and fire back with our water pistols, there were others that would squirt you with their water pistol and then there would be a bit of a chase as we tried to get them back and there was obviously some kudos in putting the plaster mix on the face of the Farangs as practically everyone who was walking past would come over and smear the stuff on us. There were stalls selling water so that you could top up your gun, there were people dancing, there were people dressed up, everyone was soaking wet and laughing their heads off. We ended up staying for a good few hours before calling it quits and making our way home in a Tuk Tuk (people were still spraying each other whilst in their Tuk Tuk's and our driver got water thrown at him whilst we were waiting for the lights to change. (We took the photo's when we got home - You can't really see just how wet we were!!). The entire city had turned into one giant water fight and it was absolutely brilliant!!!

Thursday, 12 April 2007

I feel like a good whinge!!

I love it here but nothing is ever simple and I want to have a good moan about it!!

I met with the woman that owns Pandora, Wellie (No I'm not kidding......that's her name), she looked at my art work and offered to host an exhibition of my stuff over the entire month of September. She wants me to produce about 30 pieces which she will put on display - she will also organise and host a launch party and will do the marketing for it. All she's asking for in return is 20% of any sales made (Chris and I thought that, considering the work that would go into organising it all, 20% was pretty good). I'm scunnered because I don't think I'm going to be able to do it. I don't have a bloody work permit!! (And I am not prepared to do anything that might jeopardise Chris's job). The Thai's do not make it easy to do business here!! To set up a company I would need to have my own premises, employ six Thai staff and guarantee that the business would generate a certain income each month (Oh....and did I mention that I would also need an existing Thai company to act as a guarantor). Ok so are there any other options - well, I personally could be sponsored by a company but there are very specific rules about what kind of company can sponsor you depending on what type of work you want to do so that is not looking very likely (For Wellie to do it she would have to employ another six Thai staff (six Thai staff = 1 Farang Work Permit)). I have also discovered that I could get a work visa on the back of Chris's but it doesn't look like EY offer that service. Apparently it's very unusual for an organisation to do this (I don't think it's an easy thing to set up) - Chris is going to speak to the Managing Partner but told me not to get my hopes up. So the last option open to me is to get the contact details of a good lawyer and get some advice - I don't think there is going to be an easy solution but will keep you all posted!!

There is another thing that is driving me bananas at the moment!! Moon is teaching me Thai and I am teaching her English - I have been trying to increase my vocabulary using a programme called Survival Linkword which is a great idea for learning a language. It uses images which make you link the English word to another word which sounds like the word you want to remember. For example - The Thai word for Duck is Peh (t). So you picture, as vividly as you can, that you love to chase your Pet Duck. I know that this method works (my Dad has used it on many an occasion) but it doesn't work for Thai. Thai is a tonal language so Pet can mean Duck or Diamond depending on how you say it. Now, you would think that if you are standing at a food stall and you say Pet that the person serving you would know that you wanted duck but if you don't say it using the right tone then they just stand there looking at you blankly. I'll give you another example (and this one is a killer) - The Thai for Rice is Kao so you have to imagine a cow eating rice. Sounds simple - I tried this on Moon and have now learned that it can also mean Knee, To enter, He/She or Animal horn and to make matters worse there is another word Kaao (which sounds scarily similar) that can mean Fishy, News or White depending on how it is said so she had no idea what the hell I was on about when I proudly said 'Kao'. I then pointed at rice and said 'Kao' she apparently corrected me but I have to say that it sounded exactly the same as what I had just said. I am now trying to learn the different tones and am providing Moon with a great source of amusement (aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggg!!)

Actually......I feel better now I have got that off my chest!!!