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Monday, September 30th, 2013

OMG, it’s almost been a year since my last RTW! I am planning my next trip back to Thailand to get some teeth in November and to see my sons in Thailand and Hong Kong. I am beginning to anticipate…and remember…

An expat took his laptop battery to the computer shop opposite Makro in Samui to see if they had one or could order one from Bangkok. He approached the guy at the counter with his carrier bag. (There was no one else in the shop, and the guy was not busy doing anything)

“Sawasdee Krap”


“can you help me?”


“I have a laptop battery” (reaching into carrier bag)

(At this point the battery was still concealed in the bag)

“Can you….?.”


“cannot what?”


“Do you have……?” (producing said battery. He didn’t even look at it)


” I see…..Can you order from Bangkok?”


“Are you saying that there is no shop in the whole of Bangkok where you can get a laptop battery?”


Another expat:
“In Banphai there is a pharmacy, each time I go in, without looking up the man says NO HAVE. Hello I can see what I want on that shelf… NO HAVE…I go outside and get the [Thai] wife and she asks for the same item. He goes to the shelf and passes item to my wife 80 baht please. WTF.”

You may also encounter Mr. NONO and Mrs. SHOO-SHOO

I think there may be several things going on here.

Mrs. NOHAVE may not understand the request and don’t want to admit it to save face. Also may apply to MR. CANNOT, MR. NONO and MRS SHOO-SHOO.
Mr. CANNOT can not speak English in order to answer the request.
This may be followed up by Mrs. SHOO-SHOO
Mr. CANNOT and Mrs. NO HAVE, Mr. NONO and Mrs. SHOO-SHOO may be tired.
Thais are sick of dealing with farangs who don’t speak Thai
Thais are sick of dealing with farangs

Of course it may be true that they really CANNOT or NO HAVE.

An American Mother in Mexico

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I often encounter locals in Mexico who are quite shocked to hear that I have three sons…one in the U.S. one in Hong Kong and one in Thailand part of the year. To make it worse my husband is in Thailand also.

Why do you let them go there!? Never mind that the kids at least are 44, 42 and 37! And as if I could do anything about it anyway!

Sticking his finger out at me, one teacher implied I was a bad mother to let them go. Why not, I asked? Because it is dangerous! Never mind that the countries they are in are no more dangerous than Mexico! Never mind that kids as young as 12 crawl across the border illegally without their families. But that is survival and maybe another story. Or not.

Mexican children are expected to take care of their parents until death. This means not leaving home (or at least nearby their home) while they are alive if they have a choice. It means that Mexicans who have immigrated to the U.S. and lived there for 30 years are proud to come home as their parents age to spend their last years, months, weeks or days with them. Maybe we Americans could learn something from these people if we had more respect for our elders.

We Americans, until the recent economic downturn, usually have expected our kids to be on their own by about the age of 18…or out of college. We Americans are pragmatic. My Mexican-American friend, who was born in the U.S. but grew up with migrant parents and now lives in Mexico with her Mexican National husband responds this way when she hears Mexicans lamenting the American style of family

“If 18 years isn’t long enough to teach your children to be independent, then how long does it take?” Ha ha. That’s Patty!

I would never want my children to feel pressured by any kind of emotional blackmail. I would hate for my kids to feel a “duty” to me instead of love and interest freely given and received. I have my own life as does my husband in Thailand and we are careful not to try to live out our lives through our children….in other words…laying a trip on them. Often it is the parents who are getting their needs filled through their children.

I feel that I had a chance to live my life the way I wanted. I left home at the age of 12 because all children of isolated farm families had to go away to school if they wanted a decent education within which to prepare for university. My mother, a child of Polish immigrants and having grown up on an isolated ranch in Montana, did the same.

And it is now my children’s opportunity to answer to their heart’s desire. When I talk to young Mexicans this way I sense yearning. When I describe what my children are doing in various parts of the world they sigh. When I talked to my young female dentist about her mother who she took care of until she died, I asked if she was very sick. No, she said. She just had a problem in her head. Oh, I said…she was senile? No, no, no, she said. She was fine. She just wanted her children around her all the time so me and my three brothers would take turns visiting her each day! Oh, I said. Needy. Yes! she said. Then she sighed.

I think it’s good not to confuse geography with intimacy. It’s not the location that makes the difference. For me, it’s the frequency and quality of the communication. You can be interdependent and not living in the immediate vicinity of each other. Whether it is “fashionable” or not strikes me as an odd question. I am proud of my very close relationship with my “kids.” And thank God for video skype. I suspect they are quite happy that I am not in their hair all the time with me in Mexico. ;-) They always just rolled their eyes and did what they wanted to anyway.

Having said that, however, we are all very dependent on each other for safety and helping each other with personal needs. I have recently sent my oldest, in the US, a lengthy list of instructions…and put his name on the title of my car, and my living will, in case something happens to me here in Mexico. My Thai daughter-in-law says, “mom, I take care you!” You should have seen the look on my son’s face! hahahaha. Whatever will be will be but I know I would want to be independent as long as possible. Maybe located in a group home with a wonderful caregiver where my 94 year old mother-in-law is.

The kids left home when they went to university and afterward found their own paths in life which happened to take them away from their birth place. The oldest, unmarried, is in Las Vegas because that is where there was the greatest demand for his work at the time. Besides he hated the cold and windy and cloudy NW of the US and Chicago where he did his medical residency and likes the heat to physically train in. The middle one visited Thailand, loves the culture and the water and fell in love with a young Thai woman to whom he has been married for 9 years. She’s the daughter I never had and she’s funny and very wise. The youngest went to culinary school after university which led to working in Manhattan for eight years, Beijing for two and now Hong Kong for three. He has decided to stay in HK, has just been promoted to Executive Chef at the American Club and is quite happy to be avoiding the financial crisis in the US. It probably helps that he has a long-term relationship with his Cantonese girlfriend. ;-)

I suppose living internationally came naturally to my family because they were raised within an extended Mexican family that I had lived with in high school. Then I was a volunteer director of a foreign student exchange program while they were in high school and they were exposed to students of many cultures when I would often host parties for them in our home. And I had a disabled Mexican girl for six months and a boy from Brazil as exchange students for a year in our home. And they all separately often traveled internationally before settling into their jobs.

Truthfully, I am so happy that they are all healthily capable of living independently…finding adventure and new horizons. I am excited though, that, after 14 years, we are all meeting up together on Koh Samui Thailand at the end of January 2013.

Dangers of Humor Across Cultures

Saturday, April 14th, 2012
A friend in a Couchsurfing forum observed that when he first moved to Malta he would try jokes, wry observations, and other kinds of humor I was used to back in New Hampshire and Boston. I'd usually receive blank stares, ... [Continue reading this entry]

In And Out Of Bangkok

Monday, March 17th, 2008
Have become familiar enough with Asia that the usual things you notice on the surface aren't so eye-catching now. Am learning to adapt to surface cultural differences with less frustration. But adapting for a traveler briefly passing through is ... [Continue reading this entry]

Contemplating Going “Home”

Friday, February 23rd, 2007
I was quickly stopped by a policeman. "Have you been drinking? Have you been smoking pot? Your eyes are all red! Then he made me stand, in high heels, on one foot and count to forty. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Late Saturday Night Out

Monday, October 23rd, 2006
Saturday afternoon, Gerardo and I went by collective taxi to Huayapam to take some cds full of Mike's pictures he had taken of the soccer game to Bardo's son Pavel. Returning to the city about 9pm we decided to stop ... [Continue reading this entry]

I Could Be In India

Monday, August 7th, 2006
I was reading through some of my blog entries about India the other day and then I came upon this article about India and laughed so hard I nearly cried. It's really good to laugh. Trying Really Hard To ... [Continue reading this entry]

One Oaxacan Migrant Family

Monday, June 26th, 2006
Yesterday I went to Tule...a small town of about 15,000 near Oaxaca City. What a charming place. Most of the men are gone up north, my driver said (as a huge brand new black diesel pickup backed up ... [Continue reading this entry]

Mexican Cumbia Dancing

Sunday, June 11th, 2006
I had forgotten how much fun it is to dance to Mexican music! I think I am a Mexican trapped in a gringo body! Last Friday, Gerardo and his mom, Socorroo, invited me, a few of her friends, Michael, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Emails From Leila

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
WOW what a city. BANGKOK is alive. It is New year for them amd they celebrate with water. The streets are alive with people walking arround with water pistols and clay. Everyome is om thr street. You goota srr it ... [Continue reading this entry]

Songkran Water Festival

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
Day before yesterday was New Years in Lao. Yesterday was New Years in Thailand, although the celebration continues for several days in these countries. We get it again! Leila took a cheap bus to Kao San Road while I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sabaidee Pi Mai Lao!

Thursday, April 13th, 2006
Lao New Year (and in Thailand) is a time to encourage young people to absorb the spirit of cleaning their temples, houses, stupas of their ancestors and apparently the bodies of anyone, especially the foreigners they come across. The purpose ... [Continue reading this entry]

Culture Shock

Monday, April 3rd, 2006
as my mother would have said.): Am taking the liberty of posting Bob's April 3 email describing homecoming culture shock after arriving home in Oregon from Asia...very succinct.
good morning; On Comcast internet--- and it's fast. What a pleasure. The air is fresh. It's brisk. Everything green. No ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tha Ton Thailand

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006
gatQye8keZlS3vpnwrOvxg-2006186163905868.gif Supuat drove me to Tha Tan...right on the Thai-Burma border directly north of Chiang Mai to see several minority groups, Lisu, Lahu, Akha and Longnecks, that live there. Last year in southern Yunnan China, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Reverent Inquiry

Friday, March 10th, 2006
In spite of my petty but honest day-to-day frustration with bureaucratic silliness while traveling in most developing countries, I treasure the lives of the people who ironically seem to have integrity...congruity. The way they live is understandable in relation ... [Continue reading this entry]

The World A Playground?

Saturday, March 4th, 2006
A friend recently emailed me asking what it is like to have all the world as my "playground." This was my very brief answer: Well, the best thing about traveling in developing countries like SE Asia, Africa and China ... [Continue reading this entry]

International Night On Koh Samui

Saturday, February 25th, 2006
We're back on Samui and I have rented a brand new furnished one bedroom house for $12.00 a night at "Solitude Resort" on a mountainside about a mile from Doug and Luk's bungalow. The first evening we were welcomed by our ... [Continue reading this entry]

Now…Not Later

Sunday, February 5th, 2006
It is typical for Thais to think only about what to do now...not some time in the future. So when Doug was showing me houses to buy next year, we asked Luk where she wanted to go next...her answer ... [Continue reading this entry]


Friday, February 3rd, 2006
I have learned a new ethnic slur..."eurotrash"...which apparently refers to the white Europeans who come to third world countries claiming to be somebody big back home but selfishly feeding off the local generosity...the word, I think, usually used by the ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Meaning of Riaproy

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
Some friends that spent a year in Thailand with the Peace Corps have said there is an additional Thai value that is called "riaproy." "It means polite and well-mannered; neat. It also means orderly; ready-to-go. Rarely do you see ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bar Girls

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
Bar Girls Waiting For Customers To Buy Them A Beer And Whatever... Bar Girls Bar Girls 2

Teach The Children What?

Thursday, January 19th, 2006
On National Children's Day in Thailand, it is a tradition for the Prime Minister to deliver a positive "motto." This year the wealthy PM Thaksin who owns Thai Air and other assets said that children should read more and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Babies Take Manhattan

Monday, December 5th, 2005
Nanny's pushing babies in strollers are everywhere in Brooklyn, we noticed soon after arriving here, so it was no surprise when the New York Times ran a story December 1 called "The Children Are Back" ... "Babies Take Manhattan" a ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, November 1st, 2005
We had been years since we saw Odetta so when Bob read that she would be performing in a Village club we jumped at the chance to get tickets. She walked in dressed in a dramatic multi-colored red and ... [Continue reading this entry]

New York Style

Monday, October 24th, 2005
Most everyone in New York is interested in looking stylish. The definition is different, however depending on the neighborhood you are in...whether on the affluent Upper West Side or on the Lower East Side. It also makes a difference ... [Continue reading this entry]

Strangers in the “hood”

Monday, October 24th, 2005
I've never been in a city that has such diverse but tight little neighborhoods. The first question asked by anyone you meet, after what do you do, is where do you live. Soon you know the tenant ... [Continue reading this entry]

The New York Attitude

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005
The New York attitude is a lot more complicated than simple rudeness. According to a local, it's a mixture of being tough, brave, on your toes, jaded, overworked and intensely focused. Who needs to be pulled into a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Third Culture Kids

Monday, October 17th, 2005
Third Culture Kids are children of expatriate families who live for a significant proportion of their lives in a culture other than their own, where they travel to many countries other than their own passport country. This results in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Thainess And The West

Sunday, July 17th, 2005
The July 2005 edition of the slick upscale magazine for English-speaking foreigners called The Big Chilli ran an article with interviews of prominent Bangkok residents to get their views of what constitutes Thai culture. Two were Thai and two ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Harley in Viet Nam

Saturday, June 18th, 2005
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171162818157.gif June 10, 2004 While I was in Bangkok Bob flew to Vietnam. He wrote to say he had difficulties accessing the web today and spent most of the day traveling. His emails: Now in Da lat ... [Continue reading this entry]