Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Long Arm of the Law

I wouldn't have believed it unless I had seen it.

Yesterday, as I was motorcycling my way to the school fitness center for my daily exercise, I noticed two sets of travelers ahead, also going the same direction as I. Nearest me were two policemen on a motorcycle. In Thailand, the police have to buy their own motorcycles, so it's not unusual to see a couple cops doubling up on one bike. About 50 feet ahead of them was a full-sized Asian elephant lumbering along with two mahouts (elephant trainers) astride its back.

The police were slowly following the elephant and its riders, which seemed a bit suspicious. The ridiculous thought crossed my mind, "Wouldn't it be funny about now, to see the red lights flashing, hear the siren, and see the cops perform a traffic stop?" No sooner had the through crossed my mind, and that's exactly what happened.

Siren blaring, red lights, a wave of the hands, and the lumbering four-footed vehicle came to a dead stop, trunk waving in the air, ears flapping the flies away. As I blew by them on my own bike, I looked in the rear view mirror, and the policemen were dismounting their cycle with stern looks, ticket book in hand. The mahouts had that guilty look like they had just run a red light.

Of course, I didn't stop to listen in on the conversation, but a few more scenarios crossed my mind during my subsequent work-out session:

  • "Ah, sirs can we see your Mahout's license please?"

  • "Elephant vehicle registration, please? We have reports of a stolen elephant."

  • "Are you aware that you are not traveling in the "Elephants Only" lane?"

  • "Your elephant has a tail light out. "

  • "You've got a broken tusk, here's a warning ticket. Get it fixed at the next vet's shop."

  • "You were going under the minimum speed limit."

  • "Did you see the "Hospital Zone--Quiet! No Trumpeting!" sign back there?

  • "Would you jump down for a sobriety test, please? Oh, you haven't had anything to drink? OK, how much lemon grass has your elephant been grazing on today? He was definitely staggering. Would you ask him to put the end of his trunk on this breathing device and blow?"

  • "We're lost. Are you guys from around here? We're looking for the nearest donut shop."

    All in a normal day in Thailand.

    And the adventure goes on...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Window Dressings

Room with a view...and a zoo.

I opened my bedroom window yesterday morning only to be greeted by a small snake wound around the security grate and climbing vines. Up to now, a variety of birds, insects, and lizards have been the usual characters to take up residence at my window. But this reptile was different: about 1/4 meter (8-10 inches) long, with very distinctive white coloring with black stripes or bands running around it's head and girth. I usually don't think of snakes as beautiful, but this one came close with it's pure white skin and delicate thin black bands. For lack of a name, I dubbed my new resident the "zebra snake."

It was quite shy, and after taking a brief look at me, disappeared in a niche between the window and the frame (slight shudder: did that niche connect to inside the house somewhere?).

This morning before school, my friend, Au, stopped by to say "hello" (OK, to say "Sawadee khrap"). Au teaches fourth grade students at the local elementary school, and is quite limited in his English. I described my little zebra snake in detail to him (yeah, I know my colors and shapes in the Thai tongue by now).

I waited a full minute while he searched his data bank for the proper English words, and then gave up in exasperation. OK, looks like I was to get the dramatic version: He bugged his eyes, grabbed his throat, rolled his eyes back into his head, staggered backwards until he fell onto the sofa, then kicked his legs, and flailed his arms like in an epileptic seizure. Finally, he went limp with his tongue hanging out.

I clapped in appreciation. Bravo! What a show! Mission accomplished, Au jumped up and took his bow with a smile of satisfaction.

Wonder what he was trying to say?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Side Bar: Rubbing Shoulders with Expats

Hi from Thailand!

One of the great delights of living in Thailand is the expatriate or "expat" community. Every day I can practice my high school French with the French professors (we have five in our dept.--and I love watching them cringe at my efforts), in addition to chatting with Canadian, Austrian, Israeli, Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese and Korean instructors. There are about 50 foreign teachers here, in all, which makes for a veritable cornucopia of cultural delights. Having traveled or worked in all their countries gives me a special bond with them.

Even more fun, a very active expat Internet site keeps me in close touch with Brits and Australians living here, as well. We interact often. I've come to really appreciate their "stiff upper lip," "buck-up mate!" and dry humor they are so famous for. I'm learning a lot of new (or old?) English words I never knew existed (all decent, of course).

Here is a great story currently circulating among my British friends in Thailand, great sports lovers of English Cricket and Soccer (which, of course, the latter they misguidedly call "football")...




A seven-year-old boy was at the centre of a Parramatta, New South Wales courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him.

The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible.

The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him.

After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.

After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the English Cricket Team, whom the boy firmly believes are not capable of beating anyone.