Amazing how cool eighty degrees can feel. It was 92 at my bedside upon retiring last night. Even the roosters feel it. They’re foregoing their usual raucous morning greetings and sort of phoning it in instead.

Wat cannons

Yes, cannons. When I anticipated what it would be like to work in Thailand, I never thought “huh! I bet there’ll be a lot of cannons. And cannon fire every day”.

But Wats do in fact have cannons, and they blow them off during funerals. Sometimes it seems there are lots of funerals on one day, or maybe the deceased is especially important and so gets extra explosions as an expression of respect.


One day when teaching at Wat Ban Cha, I was especially jumpy and on edge because the classroom was really hot and the kids were working my nerves a bit. The intermittent cannon fire didn’t help, regularly deafening me for a moment. The cannons must have been pointed at my classroom windows; I could feel the concussion in my chest.


“Walk this way”, says one character. “If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t have to powder me thighs!” responds the second character. (This has to be either from Mel Brooks or Monty Python — perhaps one of my more eidetic friends will recall…). Well, multiple times daily I powder me everything. I’m about to leave on my hourlong morning bicycle commute, and before I go out the door, I’ll sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of baby powder down my shorts.

Powder is a big deal when it’s so doggone hot. Everyone dusts themselves like crazy to avoid the stickiness that inevitably results from the heat. By bedtime, we look like clowns in whiteface, with large uneven blotches of powder everywhere. This is less evident on my skin, being a very white guy.

It was ninety-two degrees at my bedside when I retired last night after three hours of studying. Since the temperatures started to go up a few days ago, I’ve slept in the full blast of a large fan all night. My French friends, phobic about drafts, will find this horrifying. The alternative is to marinate in a puddle of perspiration.  Of course (you’ll be proud to know I learned this very quickly), the fan has to be off during the powdering process to avoid creating tornadic white swirls.


Caving river banks

Erosion is always a concern along rivers. In Minneapolis, there was a huge cave-in in 2013 and it has yet to be cleaned-up 2 1/2 years later. Here in central Thailand, river erosion is problematic too. Consider:

A. If you have access to trees along the river and you need some money to survive, you cut down the trees:

2. Then you chop them to bits, light them afire and quickly bury them in a dirt hole with a pipe sticking out of it to keep the smoldery fire going for days. When you dig it up, you have charcoal to sell to your neighbors to use in their small kitchen stoves. Who wants to spend good baht on clean propane when charcoal is available?  3. Then, for reasons I’m yet unable to comprehend, you burn the land down to the dirt. 

4. When rainy season arrives, the adjacent river road has no support on the river bank, so it begins to crack and slide toward the water.

 5. After the bank collapses, the local community must invest its resources in backfilling the washout area, and in some cases installing undoubtedly costly retaining walls.   

So, considering the consequences, there must be pretty good reasons to allow all the chopping and burning. What are they?

Mail call

Our spirits lifted today when we got mail from people who love us back home. Thanks especially to the Magid Harts, who mailed two!! Real paper mail provides something tangible and comforting and we appreciate it a lot. We like Facebook clicks too, but somehow it’s just not the same.