Saturday, January 26, 2008

In the Navy

In my last gloomy blog, I wished the scenery where I work was that of coconut trees and the sea. Well, whatever that is up there floating entities (God, Buddha, Allah, Chinese flying fairies, blue elephant like God etc) has their own wicked ways of twisting and making things come true in partial portions. I landed a project in the Navy.

If you say Navy, like how we say it (nae–v), Thais have no idea WTF you are talking about. They pronounce it na-v. Sattahip is a weird place. The whole district of about 300 square KM is military controlled. Almost every shop be it restaurants or karaoke is run by a military personnel. I go to the sea every morning to have my breakfast and let my eyes feast on the mountains and the sea. I could see the bottom of the sea and the fishes two meters deep. I consider these clear waters.

During my many nights with the bunch of admirals, commanders and captains, we talked many. Submarines, Singapore have, so Thailand must have. Asked if they fear some Singapore submarine is now lurking just off the sea planning a hostile takeover of all karaoke business, they said what they do not know, they do not fear. So, Singapore subs can linger all they want around the sea and land themselves whenever, to enjoy THB$700 per shot Pattaya girls. Fact: During joint naval exercises with Singapore, Pattaya is a must stop, with the Thai officers leading the group of Singapore island color wolves deprived. THB$700 prices… pop till they drop.

THB$700!! I don’t believe. So in the middle of the night, they bought us through a discreet alley that lead to the sea. This is no Pattaya but in Sattahip and the prices only go lower. And oh yeah, true enough discreetly over the sea, end of the discreet alley, we found a discreet fish tank business. The discreet price for foreigners like me is THB$1,000 but hey, for the locals its THB$500. Still not believing my ears, I sent my solider (technician) into war, sponsored. Yipee-yay-yea. Its true but the discreet session was only a discreet 30 minutes. To top the discreet charts, was that he had to take a cable car from the chicken coop to the rooms. The short ride over the sea cost another THB$20 return. Incredible…. Amazing Discreet Thailand.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Funeral Thai Style

Thai Funeral
So.. we disturb our neighbors right out of their sleep in the middle of midnight from the loud chanting in the deck of HDBs in Singapore and our deceased’s spirit takes the elevator up the block to pay us a visit in our dreams. Here in Thailand where Temples are as abundant as Seven Eleven, is where Thais hold their funeral ceremonies. We burn paper money, we burn the paper house, the paper Mercedes, paper credit cards and even paper women for our departed. The ashes not only reach the afterlife but most residents in our estate will receive them as well in their bedrooms, saving it probably for their own afterlives in Basement-18 (Chinese Hell). Here… no burning. Just simple chanting from 7.30pm to 8.00pm. However, some Chinese families will practice like we do in Singapore, contributing happily to global warming.

We do the watch for several days, staying awake all night chatting, playing cards, eating and drinking. Here, they leave the dead alone after dark and return tomorrow to the temple after 4.00pm in preparation for the evening prayer. Why no night watch I asked. They don’t want to see no ghost they answered. Only rarely, do Thais practice the night watch.

To rent the temple hall for the dead cost THB $2000 per day. And the most interesting part is that they keep the body in a metal refrigerator with a viewing glass. Thais believe the recently parted is not self aware that they are dead until the 3rd day. And that’s the day when most paranormal activities occur within the families when the departed returns for hair raising visit. They don’t take elevator, they float right into your rooms via your front door from the main street.

His mother, talked sadly about the events yesterday. How strange of him to be eating whatever he could during breakfast, as if knowing it was his last meal. How strange of him to be visiting grandma extra frequently during the final week, as if he knew he could no longer do so anymore. How strange the wave that came for the three children, rising like a grabbling hand to pull him, the last to leave the water. The rescuers thought it odd that he came back on the shore perpendicular to the sea, arms stretched out straight in line with the whole body. How odd he was not on the shore one moment but appeared suddenly as the next wave receded as if some mysterious force had invisibly pulled him up. How extraordinary that drowning victims normally takes a few hours to days to be discovered but not him. As the chanting ended and the friends and relatives left, his aunt raised the family dog right up to his portrait. They spoke, they stroked his face on the picture glass, the dog stared maybe to know there will be no more leaping around his legs as he walks in the door. I started my engine, the last car leaves. The temple empties, little boy, rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Career can Kill

It is the “Xing Pee” period, meaning New Year period now. Most Thais take this long weekend opportunity to go back to their provincial homes to be with their pet buffalos. Friday to Tuesday, made up of New Year, two company off days and the two weekend days. I looked out my balcony on midnight yesterday, I had a 180 degree view of overwhelming fireworks on all parts of the entire Bangkok-scape. It was festive, or was it not?

Xing Pee is a happy period of utmost joy. But Thailand, anything can happen, not always a safe and orderly haven, drama happens. The tranquility of Thailand’s deceiving beachscape has taken another toll. In the waters just this Sunday of Hua Hin lurks death, always waiting, always watching and always attempting on the unattended child. The waters churned and clawed the little boy of twleve into belly of the sea (Thais refer to the many troughs in the unsuspecting beaches as bellies of the sea). My gig and her whole family of relatives went from a mood of delight to pure despair. They shouted, they searched. The farangs came, the volunteers came. The water was beefy. All it takes is three minutes for the human brain to die without oxygen. All it took was one instant for a child to be swept away. All it took was fifteen minutes to see the eerie body of what used to be a lively boy washed up on shore faced down. Gig bought her cousin his last pack of milk from Seven Eleven just in the earlier part of the morning. CPR was performed by a passing nurse on her annual holiday. Blood and food flowed out of the lifeless mouth. Fifteen minutes, just a short quarter of an hour, all is gone. His parents had no money. All the relatives chipped in for the attempted rescue and hospital fees of near to 10k Baht. His heart gave up in intensive care. The wailings only grew louder.

Xing Pee, where everyone is suppose to be enjoying, not me. The sunset above on New Years eve, my sunset. I am the expert of CCS in the Substations and Power Plants. I am the all mighty software that unites, control and monitor all equipments. To design a system, my mind is always three steps ahead into the future on the watch for all possible scenarios. These are my sunsets during periods of all major holidays. I cannot be with my gig. I could have been with her cousin. There was a small possibility that my trained reasoning protocol could have spotted the dangers of the little boy waddling happily. I could have been aware of the wave-strength-&-height to boy-body ratio and warned. I did not, I could not. My work has taken a toll. My body is tired. I am sick of my work. I am sick of not spending a normal life and working for 48 hours without sleep this New Year. I love Thailand but hate my work now. I wished the silhouettes were coconut trees instead of power structures. I wished the background was the sea. I wished to be a manager in a sea resort or something, maybe less money then now, but more of a normal life. My brain needs a rest. My life style needs a tweaking. I may attempt I may try.

I have to attend a funeral on New Year day today. My work, my life.