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The other day our house helper was holding our baby Caitlin while I (Sun) grabbed a bite of lunch. She suddenly realized that Caitlin had a double cowlick on her head and, after confirming that the baby was born on a Monday, foretold that Caitlin would be feisty and strong-willed just like one of her sons who had similar traits. The week before she had told me that as an infant her son was so strong-willed and hard to please that she went through a Thai ceremony in hopes of making her son more manageable. With a group of elderly people around, the ceremony required her to ask aloud, “Who’s baby is this? Whatever spirit or ghost or demon out there that owns this baby, come and claim him.” At this point, the group of elders assuming the role of a “Mae Seu” (แม่ซื้อ) would respond by saying, “He’s ours and we will take him.” This ceremony is supposed to make the baby be less difficult to raise. However, it didn’t work for her, she confessed. He was still keeping her up all night from 7 pm to 7 am and sleeping during the day for a long, long time.
This morning I got up early and walked down to the main temple in Phra Phutta Baht to see the annual Flower Offering Merit Making Festival (ประเพณีตักบาตรดอกไม้) and take some pictures. The two parallel roads leading up to the temple were filled with people waiting to put flowers and dry food goods offerings into the bowls of 3,000 monks who were assembled for the occasion. See below for some photos followed by a bit of commentary.
A few days ago, I got a call from a teacher at Anuban Nong Doan Primary School. “Can you come and teach English to our students? How about one day per week?” The teacher was disappointed to hear that I only had one half day per week available but nevertheless wanted to meet with me to discuss the details and said that they would be able to compensate me for my time.I arrived at the school the following afternoon, expecting to meet with this one particular teacher but instead found myself sitting at the head of a table with all the school’s teachers gathered around, about 15 teachers in all. We initially talked about day and time, but when the chair of the meeting turned to me and asked how much money I needed, the discussion got more interesting. “I don’t really need any money, actually. I am happy to teach for free but the only thing that I ask is for permission to use stories from the Bible as part of curriculum.” I assured them that I did not intend to pressure the children to change religions or try to get them to convert. I merely wanted to use some stories from the Bible as part of my teaching. The teachers discussed this idea back and forth for a bit. One of the concerns was “What will the parents think?” They feared that some parents could misunderstand my intention and think that there was some foreign teacher trying to convert their kids. Into their conversation, I threw out another option, “Or, instead of using Bible stories as part of the English teaching, for every hour of teaching, I could do 45 minutes of English, and then 15 minutes of a Bible story in Thai.” They liked that I idea more but were still not enthusiastic. The chair of the meeting, whom I was seated next to, turned to me and with a big smile on his face and asked, “Can’t you just teach English?” I gave a big smile back and didn’t say much of anything. This is a Thai way of saying, “No”. He understood and realized that I wasn’t going for it.
When I was in Thailand (1999-2002), I encountered numerous foreign guys looking for Thai wives or Thai women dreaming of finding foreign husbands. Granted that some of these Thai/foreign couples have wonderful and happy marriages, it was my observation that the majority of these marriage fell far short of what a marriage could and should be. First of all, the foreign guy usally speaks little to no Thai and the Thai women has little to no English. How can you know that you want to marry someone if you can hardly talk with them on a deep level? The answer is that you have low expectations for what you want out of marriage. As you can see from the article below (from "The Nation", one of Bangkok's English language newspapers), many Thai women see foreign husbands as an opportunity for financial security, greater social status. And the foreign guys are often seeking out a beautiful submissive Asian woman to cook, clean, and take care of their other "physical needs" (if you know what I mean).
On the plus side, foreign guys have a greater reputation for marital fidelity and not abusing their wives to their wives than do Thai men. This is a generalization, I know. I have known many Thai men who by all outward appearances love their wives very much, been faithful, and treatly them wonderfully. However, many Thai women have had the exact opposite experience and seek out foreign husbands in hopes of avoiding the abuse and heartache of their previous relationship(s).