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Changing Times

  • Written by Kloth
  • November 14th, 2018
  • 6 min read

A much discussed topic these days in Thailand and around the world.

“Mothers and fathers don’t criticize what you can’t understand your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.” Lyrics out of Bob Dylan’s early hit song “the times they are a changin”.

Half a century ago, just about out of my teenage years and not yet entirely proficient in the English lingo, I remember plugging in the record player in my tiny bedroom and listening to those old 45 RPM vinyl records to what was then considered a protest song. Perhaps a forerunner of the rap interpreters in years to come. Pretty lame protest song by today’s standards. But for me to this day I can still hear Dylan’s somewhat nasal voice, a mounted harmonica or mouth organ in front. Sometimes he was accompanied by other artists like Joan Baez who’s Folk Ballads later became some of my favorite songs in her sweet but powerful voice.

The memories return when I observe my son, soon to be 19 in front of his notebook or tablet where he spends the majority of his free time watching mindless Japanese cartoons or equally mindless computer games. These days every now and then he switches over to YouTube putting on his young contemporaries excellent Rap “Prathed ku mee”.

It’s reminiscent partly of my own youth all those years ago. The “make love not war” slogan and the San Francisco flower children were fading away slowly to give way to student protests around the world. In Europe mostly France & Germany, best known under the designation “mai 68” led by the radical activist Cohn Bendit.

I like the recent Thai Rap song. It does not surprise me that it became an instant hit on YouTube. If the kids find a charismatic leader it may just trigger or be the beginning of more change.

And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. In Forrest Gump’s terminology. The reason is of course that political views or opinions are not welcome on Stick’s site. Instead I will recall some other events of my early years in LOS where youthful zeal did not always produce the desired results.

Rawai, Phuket 1989. Riding down from the top of the gentle hill, halfway to Rawai beach on the right hand side is where I settled together with Rueang, my then girlfriend. The now booming stretch of all kind of shops, bars, even a seashell museum was almost nowhere land then. Later, adventurer/mariner and author Tristan Jones built his house on the very top of the hill. Soon complaining that he couldn’t dig a well deep enough to find water.

An enterprising business lady had built first a dozen, later another 4 modest houses on a Soi that had to be created first. It didn’t even have a name so we called it Soi Titi after the young Thai lawyer that bought the first house. But soon all the houses where occupied by Thai couples. Hans & me the only two farang. That was not a problem. We were all on friendly terms but mostly ignored by the local occupants.

A few month into our sojourn Hans came over to talk to me about a problem. The soi was in a mess, a disgrace, he declared. Trash was everywhere as people would just dispose of garbage by throwing it behind back walls leaving it there to rot. He would buy out of his own pocket proper dustbins for each house, ask and show tenants to dispose their refuse in plastic bags in the bins that would be collected twice weekly by the town’s garbage truck. It actually worked for a few weeks.

But soon informed that the garbage truck would not drive into the Soi any longer as there was no way to turn around at the end. All bins would have to be carried to the front of the Soi to be emptied. That was too much an effort. Disposal of refuse and sewage returned again behind the back walls. But the bins stayed. They were turned into flower or miniature vegetable sprouting pots. Others were painted and used as ornaments to emblazon the gates at the garden entrance. Another, a fisherman’s house kept small fish in water alive when returning in the early morning hours from his daily night fishing expedition until market time in Rawai.

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It’s a distinctive characteristic of the young to want or ask for change. Change for the better they say. For justice, for the poor, the downtrodden, oppressed or persecuted. My reminiscence in this following case is only sketchy as I didn’t live in Pattaya myself. Any locals living that period there may correct me on details.

I had been in Thailand for maybe a year or two when a young German farang entrepreneur in Pattaya proclaimed he would clean up the town. I believe he was a hotel manager’s aid and possibly owner of some bars. A minor celebrity in Farang circles. From now on no more bribes he declared, no more Tea money, immediate exit to all official corruption. It made the then yet modest Pattaya press and soon after the 2 mainstream news outlets in Bangkok. And that’s as far as he got. He was summoned by authorities and given a stern lecture not to interfere in any way in what was purely Thai matters. Besides he was informed there was no bribing, no corruption, and no Tea moneys in the land and lectured as an afterthought no prostitution and no AIDS either.

Sadly he didn’t get the lesson and persisted in his clean-up the town quest sure to be doing the right thing in the interest of the community. Sometime later he was arrested for meddling in local and purely internal Thai affairs no farang had any right to. Again it did no good and not stop his campaign. Eventually convicted on some technicality he was expulsed from the land. Blacklisted, not allowed to return to Thailand. My information is that he tried to resettle in Penang, Malaysia for a time launching a new business but was soon forgotten and to my knowledge never heard of again.

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Learning Thai. The latest megamall IconSiam praised as Bangkok’s new Landmark has opened. Perhaps when the hype of the newness has past I will get by to see it. For now it just reminds me of the shopping mall of my first few years in Thailand, the still flourishing MBK.

A very different kind to the shopping temples have opened in the last 10 or 15 years. But for me at the time MBK was perfect. Clothing, shoes, electrical equipment, even a Japanese made sort of mini desk computer with incorporated printer and ink ribbons were some of my purchases there.

Early on, one day I walked by a store that had a complete Thai language course on offer. It promised to become fluent in Thai within 30 – 90 days at most. 2 or 3 books I believe, 6 sound cassettes for practice were included. It was helpful for a beginner that I was. It got me to the stage were talking to Bargirls got easier.

The next step was an hourly lesson 2 or 3 times a week with Kong. He was a patient and gentle teacher and remains a good friend to this day. But at the time he became frustrated when I informed him that for practical reason I was only interested in spoken language not wanting to put in the effort to learn Thai written language. As all correspondence in my line of business was always conducted in English.

I finally got wise that it was only more intense contact with Thai people to achieve the level of fluency I desired. A limited one to be sure as no one at age 40+ could learn a difficult, tonal language to perfection even though I was totally committed and have or had an inborn facility with languages.

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