6. 2002

Koh Samui, Thailand, February, 2002

This morning I feel joy!
I traveled far in my search
Only to find it was always there
Hiding behind the mask I wear

I came in search of peace
And found it in the whisper of the wind
Tucked behind the gentle rhythm
Of the ocean's breath
Spoken in the songs of a thousand birds

I came burdened with questions
Secrets to be revealed

Revelations were thrown at my feet
Scattered on my path
Disguised as struggles
Wrapped in the memories of pain
They were all gifts from God

An Aboriginal man
With the smell of whiskey on his breath
Stretched out his hand
Begging for two dollars
And I gave him four

I touched his hand
And he revealed himself to me
A secret agent of dreams
He now comes to guide me
Through the jungle of my own mind

I am the ouroboros
The snake that devours itself
I eat of the knowledge of myself
Nourished by the understanding
That transcends all words

I awaken from the dream
With the memory of spirit
Seeing through the masks
Beyond the fears that mold them
Everything is beautiful again!
After attempting to stay in Australia for the winter I
have escaped to Samui for the month of February:
I am settled into my new bungalow which is a little
more expensive than I've paid before, but worth every
Baht! I have one of the garden houses surrounded by
palms, bananas, papayas, and orchids. I am a few
hundred feet from the beach, behind the family house.
I have air-conditioning which I can use in case of
smoke from burning coconut shells during harvest. My
front porch is huge with a table and chairs and a
lounge. I can have my meals served on the porch if I
choose. I really feel like I've moved uptown!

In the morning I'm awakened by the roosters who hang
out on the porch sometimes. Fortunately they crow
before the sun rises, so I can get to the beach for
the event. The books Joyce sent me for my birthday two
years ago finally arrived and were waiting for me when
I went to breakfast at Cleopatra's on my first
morning. Sa and her sisters came running out of the
kitchen yelling, "Bob, books come, books come!" I now
have a library of 28 books to keep me entertained in
the years to come. All the gang are here from London
and I've added a few new friends in the short time
I've been here. I can truly say I'm happy in the
moment. The weather in Sydney is rain, rain and more
rain! I made the right decision to escape.

Laemsai is at the end of the beach looking across the
bay to the Big Buddha. We eat dinner at bamboo tables
set in the sand with the sun setting in the
background. One of the major attractions of this place
is the food! I can't imagine a healthier diet anywhere
on the face of the planet. The main road is a fifteen
minute walk from my bungalow on a road that is so
badly in need of repair the taxi refused to drive me
in. I had to carry my bags on foot. We all agree they
should never fix the road. That's what keeps it
isolated and peaceful! There is a new MacDonalds and
Starbucks in Chaweng. These we could do without!

I feel relaxed, creative, excited and far removed from
the rest of the world! Perhaps I don't need to search
out new places in the world any longer. Perhaps two
paradises are enough! One for the winter and one for
the summer!

I am always impressed by the Buddhist perspective of
material wealth. Although the family house is huge, it
looks as though the furniture hasn't arrived yet. You
can always find these huge empty rooms with a
television in one corner and some mats on the floor!
On hikes through the jungle you may find wooden
platforms raised on stilts with roofs to protect from
the sun. The Thais seem to be able to relax on hard
surfaces without padding. A lot of life happens here
at floor level! We in the West have lazy spines which
have become addicted to chairs.

One thing that always fascinates me is the motorcycle
culture. Riding to Nathon or Chaweng is like
participating in the great race! There are trucks,
cars and motorbikes all over the road, everyone trying
to get ahead of the other. If necessary people drive
on the wrong side of the road to get to their
destination. There seem to be no rules or age
restrictions. And then there are the acrobats who
balance goods wider than the bike is long,
miraculously weaving in and out of traffic without
decapitating pedestrians on the roadside. As a tourist
one gets the sense of being at the mercy of fate. At
the end of each journey you feel that your guardian
angel has come through for you once again. But how
many people in more civilized places feel their
journey worth writing about at the end of the day?

Laem Sai, February, 2002

The beach where I sunbathe is located near the
fishermen's huts. In the morning the surf is lined
with women standing in water above their waists
holding fishing poles straight out in front of them,
parallel to the water. They are wrapped in layers of
dark clothing to protect themselves from the sun. Each
one is topped with a straw hat that comes to a point
like a small Buddhist temple sitting upon the head. I
can't escape the irony of their obsession with keeping
their skin light while I bask in the sunshine hoping
to match the beautiful golden color they are trying to
annihilate. Each woman has a small basket attached
around her neck where she puts her daily catch.

Passing behind them are the Thai fishing boats that
skip across the surface at high speed like exaggerated
gondolas with motors attached to the ends of the
pushing poles. These boats are the markers in a scene
that without them could be mistaken for seas far away
on the other side of the earth, because some things
are unmistakably Asian. Sometimes I wonder if those
silly giant banana rides of Mykonos and Puerto
Vallarta, Mexico weren't inspired by the shape of the
Thai fishing boats.

Along Maenam Beach the women seem to be the masters of
the bungalow businesses. I'm not sure if it is a form
of liberation or not! They seem to be the ones who are
doing all the work also! Here there seems to be more
equality between the genders, on the surface, than in
most nonwestern culture I've visited. Perhaps it's
because Koh Samui is such a unique place. I have a
sense that it's partly because of the Buddhist
tradition that instills a sense of respect from one
human being to another. I just always have an
overwhelming sense of peace when I'm here.

Laem Sai, February, 2002

I've met a 70 year old man and his 60 year old wife
who have done a Rob and Bob number. Gary and Beryl
owned a company called Canadian Muffin that is
evidently worldwide now. They retired from the baking
business, sold most if their things and set off on a
world tour two years ago. They arrived on Samui from
an extended stay in Australia on their way to China.
Last night Gary and I rode to and from Big Buddha in
the back of the jeep, standing up holding on to the
roll bar. This 70 year old man acts like a 15 year
old. Normally I would have sat down in the back of the
jeep, but he insisted I stop acting my age! We laughed
all the way to dinner and back singing old songs he
thought I wouldn't know the words to! The road to
Laemsai is pretty treacherous, so we had to hang on
tight while dodging tree limbs and low hanging wires
in the dark. He just kept saying, "isn't it wonderful
fun not being safe?" I had to agree.

We ate at yet another obscure restaurant on another
beach, with bamboo chairs and tables set in the sand
next to the surf. Last night we were treated to
fireworks from several directions in celebration of
Chinese New Year.

Earlier in the day I ran into a friend Alyson in
Nathon. She is British and lives in Samui for 6 years
now. She pulled me into a small ceramics shop that
also sells beautiful silk cloth and local artists'
creations. It doubles as a cafe with the best muffins
on Samui! I have walked by it for years and never knew
it was so diverse! Afterwards I went to the market to
replenish my supply of exotic fruits such as
mangosteen and rambutan. Rambutan are small red hairy
fruits that look like sea urchins before they are
peeled. So many wonderful things are in season now!
It's really great to discover new tastes at my age.
The Thais love a fruit called durian, but I doubt I'll
ever add it to my collection of new discoveries. It
smells like raw chicken that has gone bad! Sometimes
it's hard to walk through the market when durian is in

Laem Sai, February, 2002

I think I could have saved a lot of money and time if
I had just come back to Samui without the detour to
Australia, but that's hindsight! It's interesting how
I can be happy sitting cramped into a songthaew, but
miserable on a bus in a big western city. A songthaew
is a small pickup truck that has been converted into a
taxi by putting two benches along the sides in the
back. Songthaew in Thai means two rows. The back of
the pickup is covered to protect from rain and sun,
but not from wind and fresh air. The roof is used for
excess baggage. It is designed to hold about 10 people
comfortably when two people stand on the back gate
holding onto the bars on the roof. I once counted 36
people in one songthaew.

Unlike crowded busses in big cities most people on a
songthaew seem to be happy. Thai people don't seem to
stress about work the way we do. Most everyone else is
a tourist who has come to experience life without
stress. Most succeed here! I'd say riding a songthaew
is a little bit safer than riding a motorcycle, but
not much! It's worth the risk because of the
experiences you are denied inside a car. I am always
moved by how intimate Thai people are in these
situations. They are not disturbed when their body is
touching yours in a crowded situation. Often Thai
children get on a place their hand on your knee for
support. If you glance at them they smile in a way
that is completely devoid of embarrassment! You feel
like one of the family!

My house at Laemsai is directly behind the family
house. The tourists call it the palace. When the
grandfather is caring for the young boy his grandson
sometimes runs to the steps when I'm passing by. He
places his hands together in wai (prayer) position and
says, "sawatdii khrap" with a slight bowing motion.
The greeting literally means wishing you happiness.
The hands together in prayer position are a sign of
respect that acknowledges that we are all a part of
God or the creation. It's a refreshing cultural
tradition in this modern world!

We are still in the midst of Chinese New Years
celebrations. Last night as we arrived back from
dinner on the other side of the island we were treated
to a beautiful display of Chinese lanterns. They were
launched from the jungle side of the road. They are
like small balloons that rise into the sky from the
heat generated from the lantern itself. Against a sky
dripping with stars and accented with a new moon came
a stream of red/orange lights floating across the sky
like small ships destined for the moon. There is
always something undeniably Asian about these moments!
Perhaps it's the simplicity, like a beautiful Chinese
watercolor that overwhelms you with its quiet beauty!

Laem Sai, February, 2002

When I decided to do an elephant trek through the
jungle to the waterfalls, it was because of a report I
saw on the plight of Thai elephants. Elephants in
Thailand have survived because they have always been
used to do heavy work. Now the elephant's work is
being done by machine and the survival of unemployed
elephants is in jeopardy. There are only two people
allowed on each elephant in addition to the elephant
boy who sits behind the elephant's head and directs
him. I was put on an elephant alone, which worked out
well because I could sit in the middle of the seat for
better balance. Those who came behind me were
teetering from side to side with every step. At first
my legs were dangling behind the elephant's ears until
my guide suggested I put them on the front of the seat
to keep from distracting the elephant. The elephant
and his guide have a very intimate relationship. Every
sound and every touch is a form of communication
between guide and animal. The elephant was constantly
flapping his ears back, creating an interesting
sensation on my bare legs. It was the one chance to
understand the depth of the relationship between
animal and guide. When one feels warm blood flowing
through veins, it's hard to think of a living being
without connection and empathy. I imagine the
relationship between elephant and guide is similar to
that between a jockey and his horse.

Sitting on top of an elephant requires two things. You
must first trust the elephant boy to have complete
control. Then you must trust that the elephant is kind
and obedient! We had barely begun the trip when my
elephant decided he had to go to the toilet. The
elephant boy smiled as he delivered his line with the
confidence of a Disneyland guide. He waited patiently
for me to figure out that we were standing on an
elephant toilet site and those big hairy looking balls
were not coconuts at all. The same mistake could be
made in Greece where goat dung looks exactly like
black olives! Then I heard a gushing sound of water
and the boy laughed saying, OK waterfall finished, we
go back! I figured I'd better laugh at his jokes since
he was in total control of my life at that moment.

Elephants are constantly eating, so we stopped every
few moments for a snack. Then my guide would make some
sound I could never duplicate. Off we would go to the
next tree or bush for more food. I can say
unequivocally, I prefer going uphill rather than
downhill on an elephant. The thought of falling off in
front of this huge animal isn't a place I want to go!
At one point my guide got off to take my photo with my
camera. The elephant started screaming and his trunk
was reaching back searching for me like a snake. I
just prayed he wouldn't run away with me on his back,
without a guide who knows the signal for stop! The boy
said something that settled the elephant down. I was
glad to know he also has control from a distance. When
I finally saw the photo I was surprised at how small
the elephant looked sitting under my big Caucasian

My guide was very young with bare feet. The image
reminded me of the story Junglebook. He seemed at home
sitting on the elephant's back and I admired the close
relationship he shared with the animal. I tried to
imagine being him watching me. I tried my best not to
be a typical tourist. I imagined riding for hours
through a jungle with the elephant as a real form of
transportation instead of a ride created for the
enjoyment of tourists. I'm glad to have this
experience, because I fear that the whole world is
changing so rapidly now that many of these things will
soon only exist as words on pieces of paper and images
in one's imagination! I'm happy I had another chance
to enrich my life in one more way!

Laem Sai, February, 2002

It's just before sunrise and perhaps I'm more aware
because I'll be leaving in two days. I can hear one
lone cricket under my terrace, the last remnant of a
peaceful night under a full moon. The air is full of
sound, the good sound of nature. The trees are
bursting with the sounds of exotic birds celebrating
the coming of another dawn. The roosters are calling
the sun to rise up behind the Big Buddha in Bo Phut.
As the first rays of sun touch the water I can hear
the first sounds of humans. Fishing boats race across
the top of the surf, then stop suddenly to check their
nets for a fresh catch. Soon I will hear the sound of
the pickup truck bouncing on the road to Laemsai
bringing supplies from the 5:00 AM market in Maenam.
Then the place will come alive with the sound of
tourists and children on their way to breakfast.
Laughter will echo across the surface of an inviting
sea. Everyone will scurry to get as much out of the
morning as possible before the midday sun sends them
dripping into a lazy siesta. The sweat from their
brows will dampen newspapers filled with stories of
cold rain and snowstorms far from the equator. Perhaps
some will be laced with tears and thoughts of
returning home, leaving paradise. But for the moment
we are all living in the land of Buddha and this
moment is all there is, and everything is good!

Laem Sai, December 8, 2002

Already I can see the differences in being here in
December instead of January. When I came out of the
airplane I was enshrouded by the humidity. One has the
sense of swimming through a thick warm soup that
sticks to your skin and clothes, bringing everything
into a slower motion. In the night I have the
awareness of how I am separated from the rest of
nature by nothing more than a thin veil. There is no
need for layers of insulation to protect one from the
cold because cold does not exist in the Equatorial
realm. In the night I can hear the monsoon rains
creeping up in the distance then pounding down upon
the roof in cleansing waves that wash away the sounds
of all other life. I am struck by the absence of the
sounds of jungle life as they take respite from the
deluge. As it passes on to other islands the volume
and tempo is reduced to the pitter patter upon banana
leaves and the swishing of the coconut palms. Then a
momentary silence is replaced by the cries of
nocturnal jungle life and I am once again reminded
that I am not alone.

At the earliest sign of daylight I am awakened by the
sound of roosters making their way across the roof to
perch upon the highest vantage point. At first their
song is one of seduction, calling upon the sun to rise
up behind Big Buddha. Slowly their chorus turns to one
of celebration as the first rays of light illuminate
the golden Buddha's radiant gilded form. Everything is
greener than green. There is a feeling of freshness, a
renewal of hope, a sense that there is something
bigger and more powerful than the follies of mere
human beings. I find peace in knowing that no matter
what happens as a result of our unconscious misdeeds
there will still be something beautiful that endures.

Laem Sai, December 9, 2002

Culture Shock, Again

It's essential to take notes the first few days,
before I begin to take everything for granted again.
There are so many cultural differences to notice when
I first arrive anywhere. As I was walking to Maenam
village on the main road I was struck by the happiness
of the people. So many people are smiling and their
smiles seem to be so genuine. I watched a huge truck
pass by, overloaded with some sort of building
materials. On top of the building materials sat half a
dozen young men, like children on a roller coaster in
an amusement park. Their shiny black hair, erect
spines, skin the color of coffee, all seemed perfect
against the blue sky and marshmallow clouds. Their
laughter was not suggestive of people who dreaded
going to work.

As I crossed the narrow bridge into Maenam I was
passed by a huge, very tall truck that was painted in
typical Thai style. It was reminiscent of the circus
wagons of my childhood. The bright colors, the ornate
designs exuded the regal splendor of a royal palace. I
had to wonder what cargo such a truck might carry.

In Maenam I had come to shop for things for my
bungalow. Many of the shops are packed with goods from
the floor to the ceiling, leaving dark narrow isles
that suddenly open at the back into a space with mats
on the floor. Here the owners live with very few
possessions. Perhaps they have a TV, a small cooking
stove, a few clothes hanging upon a rack. There is
something very beautiful about the simplicity of their
lives, and yet they survive upon the needs of tourists
hungry to consume all the unnecessary things packed
upon their shelves.

And always I am amazed at the spectacle of people on
motor bikes. Women sit side saddle with enormous woven
baskets filled with necessities from the local market.
Their husbands or sons drive close to the edge of the
road as their mothers or wives balance themselves in
ways that seems impossible to safety conscious Western
eyes. Children ride without seat belts, sometimes
three or four on one bike. As the bikes crawl along
the edge of the road the rest of the world speeds by
at a dangerous pace. There is something exciting about
the danger, the lack of concern for the possibility of
instant death. Perhaps it's just that they accept what
we deny. Perhaps it is better to die laughing than to
live in fear of dying.

Trouble In Paradise

10 December 2002

One of the difficult things about finding places like
Loutro and Samui is to watch them be discovered. Each
year I return to find "progress" encroaching upon the
individuality and uniqueness of each place. Here it
began with the introduction of Seven Eleven
convenience stores. Now there are McDonald's, KFC,
Pizza Hut and a new supermarket chain, Tesco, from
England. First of all let me be clear that I am not
one who believes that all progress and change is bad.
It all depends on the spirit with which it takes
place. The thing that troubles me is not progress or
change, but those who are in charge.

Unfortunately the major spirit that motivates most of
the phenomenon we call Globalization is greed! People
with money come in and begin to decide the future and
lives of people who are powerless to stop them.
Unfortunately the governments in most underdeveloped
places are corrupt, so the political leaders are also
motivated by greed. It is a perfect marriage between
corporate and political corruption. Soon the local
shops begin to disappear because they can't compete
with the major corporations. Local grown fresh fruits
and vegetables are soon replaced with ones that have
been picked green, wrapped in plastic and shipped half
way around the world. Everything is individually
wrapped in plastic for the convenience of the shopper.
Soon these wrappers begin to float up onto the beaches
or become part of the toxic smoke that emanates from
thousands of individual fires in places where
recycling is unheard of.

For those of you who tell me my spirit comes alive in
my writings when I'm here, that spirit is in danger.
There will be no joy, no celebration when I bite into
a piece of fruit to find it as tasteless and dry as
the ones in the supermarkets back home. There will be
no descriptions of exotic ways of life, cultural
diversity, or individuality. Everything will be
reduced to the experience of the shopping mall, where
it will be difficult to tell if you are in Chicago or

Today the family who has run the bungalows at Laemsai
quietly left. A hotel owner from Bangkok has signed a
30 year lease to take over the operation. There is
talk of a swimming pool directly in front of my
bungalow where now there are gardens. For me the
message is perfectly clear! If you don't have lots of
money you don't count! Everything beautiful and
natural and good is for sale to the highest bidder. As
with many in San Francisco, the decisions that face
the masses is whether to work constantly just to pay
the rent, or move away where rent is cheaper. All the
time we are told it's in the best interest of the
economy, whatever the market can bear. And all the
time in my heart I know it doesn't have to be this
way. I fear for a future that lies in the hands of
children who have been raised without the simple
knowledge of what a real piece of fruit tastes like!

Laem Sai, December 11, 2002

I think it is much easier for me to be alone in an
equatorial jungle environment than in a Northern
European or North American setting. Perhaps it is
partly because of the constant sound of nature. But I
think it is more because of the climate's effect upon
the spirit. Here I stand with one foot on the ground
and the other foot in the spirit world. It is not
uncommon for me to revisit my childhood, to meet with
the spirits of those who have departed this temporal
existence, or to travel to places a rational mind
would not accept as possible.

All this is possible in one night of dreams. I awaken
within the womb, warm and feeling safe, protected. The
spirit world follows me into my waking hours. In my
peripheral vision I see the spirits watching me,
protecting me. I understand the concepts of the
indigenous peoples of equatorial lands. They respects
their ancestors because their ancestors are always
with them. They respect nature because nature and the
animals are their guides to understanding life. They
walk with death on their left shoulder to remind them
that perfection comes not from being safe, but from
understanding how to be a part of all creation without
destroying it.

I am only lonely in cities with millions of people who
believe they don't need each other. I am only lonely
in places where people are rushing as though they have
someplace to go. At the end of each day they are back
to the place where they began that very morning,
exhausted from running in place. I am only lonely in
places where people have schedules, appointments,
places to go, things to do. I am only lonely in places
where people have to schedule time to smile, to laugh.
So when I am here I return to my childhood, a place
that is familiar, a place where people had time to

And each day I wonder how the spirits will survive
when this place is paved over with concrete. I wonder
if the indigenous people will pave over their
ancestors graves if someone offers them enough money.
I wonder if the door between the temporal and the
spiritual will be locked like the doors to the
churches of big Western cities. Each time I burden
myself with all these questions I am tapped on the
shoulder by a gentle wind that whispers in my left
ear, "the choice belongs to you!"


Laem Sai, Dec 16, 2002

It's really different being here in December. I've
never seen so much rain before. Yesterday was another
day when it rained most of the day. In the late
afternoon I went to buy some things at the market. We
had to drive slowly through water about 10 inches deep
for about the equivalent of three city blocks. When we
returned an hour later it was mostly gone. As a result
of so much rain, mosquitos hang out at my front door
trying to get into my bungalow. So far I've been
successful at keeping them outside. Most of them will
disappear when the monsoon ends. I've now experienced
four days where I've been trapped inside my bungalow
because of heavy rains. It makes doing computer work
and reading easy.

On my way to the main road I pass through the school
property. It's a shortcut because the road to Laemsai
is in terrible condition because of the rains. There
are places that are virtual mudslides which are not
conducive to walking or driving. I am always impressed
by how casual and relaxed the students are in the
school. Even though they all wear uniforms there seems
to be a casual atmosphere that it not reminiscent of
my school days. Many times they are playing ping pong
on their breaks. It all seems to be a big
contradiction. They all assemble together in front of
the school each afternoon to the beckoning of a Thai
woman's voice over a loudspeaker. There seems to be
some formal outline to the groups of students
assembled together, all facing the same direction as
if ready to march. But there is also a conspicuous
absence of stress or seriousness. They all seem to be
having fun. Is that allowed in school?

At the end of the day all kinds of vendors line the
road from the main road to the school to sell fresh
fruits, sweet pastries, soft drinks, ice cream,
seafood, chicken and water. Some of the vendors sell
their wares from a strange looking contraption
attached to the side of a motorbike. These are being
replaced by more respectable modern vendor trucks,
though. I expect in the next few years they will all
disappear like the horse drawn wagon that used to come
down the alley back home in Illinois, to pick up junk.
The Thai's enthusiastically embrace the new and
discard the old in much the same manner as we did in
the 1950's. There is a rumor that the bungalows at
Laemsai will soon have TV's with CNN. There goes the
neighborhood! Many of the students make their exits on
motorbikes, usually with a passenger sitting
precariously sidesaddle, books or homework balanced on
lap. Perhaps someday soon they will build a big new
parking lot for the students cars. Prophecy or

One day forty years from now a student from this
school will be traveling the world in search of a
place with the simplicity and happiness of his school
days. He will seek escape from the stress and fast
pace of a world gone mad. He will search out someone
who has time to play ping pong and to laugh. He will
want to escape the knowledge of every politician's
words and every terrorist's bomb. He will bring with
him the knowledge that with every step forward comes
new responsibilities and new problems. He will also
carry the burden of knowing that sometimes there is
nothing one can do to save others from the mistakes he
has already made. Everyone must learn for themselves.
Prophecy or experience?

Laem Sai Dec 17, 2002

This is very much like eleven years ago when I was in
Africa for Christmas. There is absolutely no sign of
Christmas in my daily life here. When I get an e-mail
that mentions it I still can't conceive that it is
just days away. It's really hard to imagine a place in
the world right now where it is cold. Wow, I really
like what I'm writing!

I know I've really arrived because I've stopped
ducking for butterflies, thinking they are birds.
There are three people who work in my e-mail shop at
different times. One told me yesterday that he was a
smoker, and he's sick. He was almost in tears when he
told me he quit smoking because of me! I had given
them my business card the day before and he had seen
the photo of me with Cyndi on my website. I can't tell
you how gratifying that is! When his business partner
came in he gave me a gift of three small Thai
delicacies wrapped in coconut leaves.

I've learned a little bit of Greek from lessons I
brought along and the new woman who is running Laemsai
is attempting to get me to order food in Thai. Perhaps
I'll be even more multi-lingual at the end of this
trip. What's amazing is how much time I seem to have,
but at the end of the day it is gone with none to
spare. I'm doing Tai Chi and Yoga religiously with
great results. I am sleeping better and have more
energy. I constantly have to remind myself to slow
down, there is plenty of time for whatever I want to

For me yesterday was the official beginning of the
season. When I went down the beach to get my breakfast
there were seven Germans in the restaurant and all
seven were smoking. One was coughing every time he
inhaled. I'm going to start eating at Laemsai with the
British and the Swedish tourists. My days of being
fascinated with the German culture are definitely
over! The whole world is changing their attitudes
about tobacco and the Germans are proud that they are
not. I think I'll sing Silent Night in English this


Laem Sai, Dec 18, 2002

Let me tell you a little about what makes Laemsai
special. It is at the end of Maenam beach at the
entrance to a cove that includes Big Buddha. It has
two beach fronts, one that faces north and one that
faces east. From the point where the two beaches
converge one can watch both the sunrise and sunset,
and also eat breakfast and dinner from bamboo tables
set in the sand. Laemsai is at the end of a road that
has not been well maintained, and that has been its
saving grace. While the rest of the island has been
overrun with expensive hotels and noisy strips of
nightlife, Laemsai and Maenam have remained quiet and
affordable. While other parts of the island pose
challenges for me because of the uncontrolled burning
of trash, never ending noise of motorbikes and party
people, Laemsai has been the perfect refuge. There is
a constant breeze from the east that cools and keeps
the air clean and breathable. Also my bungalow is set
in a garden with only one other bungalow beside me.
The bungalows at Laemsai have the distinction of being
placed far apart to provide better privacy. I can't
help but notice the similarity to Loutro, where lack
of a road has also protected it from the fate of many
tourist destinations.

I don't have to tell most of you the difference
between dealing with individuals and dealing with
corporations. To make a long story short, the
transition of Laemsai to a new more expensive resort
with new furniture, TV's, telephones in every room,
and tripled daily rents is happening sooner than my
departure. So my departure may be happening sooner
than I thought. I knew it would happen eventually, but
not so quickly. Even if I could afford the new rent I
wouldn't stay. I came to get away from what they are
bringing here. The really sad part is, this is only
the beginning. As far as I can understand their plans,
Laemsai bungalows will go from $550 a month to between
$300 and $500 a night in the end! This is on an island
where the average rent for a house is between $200 and
$300 a month. I happen to know for a fact that when
the 30 year lease was signed, the family that owns
Laemsai was paid based on the local economy today, not
on the profit potential. Today they feel rich, but one
day perhaps their money will run out because of
inflation, but all the investors will be happy with
their successful little scheme!

Laem Sai, Dec 20, 2002

All the injuries from my accident are healed except my
leg, which was the biggest and deepest injury. I think
I may lose the scab in the next two days. I have had
some pain inside the knee, I imagine from the blow and
the fact that it's my bad knee anyway. I just keep
going. I still can carry six liters of water the two
miles to my bungalow. I'll be glad when the last scab
is gone and I can take a real shower. It's not fun
sponge bathing for two weeks.

I guess my spirit is a little down since the
transformation of Laemsai has begun. It's in my face
every day! Yesterday they brought a TV out to the
eating area at the point on the beach and turned on a
football game. I took my food and went to the front
porch of my bungalow. The bungalows are not exactly
soundproof, so I can imagine what the evenings will be
like when there is a TV in every room. The day before
the workmen found a cobra near the bungalow on the
other side of the garden. Fortunately it was more
afraid of the workers than they were of it. It
slithered off into the jungle.

Every day I am more aware of the direction this place
is going. All the staff are from another hotel owned
by the corporation that bought Laemsai. Every day they
ask me if I want them to clean my room. They laugh
when I tell them I clean it myself. They ask me why I
walk everywhere, why I don't rent a car. When I take
my food to my bungalow they whisper to each other, "he
like quiet, want be alone," then they say something in
Thai and laugh. Maybe they can't understand that
someone would come here for the reasons I came. They
are wrong about the alone part. I'd love to have
company, but not with people who sit around smoking
cigarettes, getting drunk and watching football games.
For the same price they will soon charge for these
rooms I can get an apartment in Hawaii with full
kitchen facilities. As more American cities and states
ban smoking and more foreign countries lose their
cultural identity to globalism, I have to ask myself
why I should sit on a plane for 20 hours to get the
same thing I can get at home without the smoke.

Laem Sai, Dec 24, 2002

Every morning on the way to the beach there is a woman
sitting in front of her small home doing ironing. I
assume she does laundry for a living. I don't think
it's a high stress job, sitting under coconut palms
ironing shirts. Each morning she sits up when she sees
me coming, puts on a huge smile and says good morning
in perfect English. Each day she has a small question
about my life. When she asked if I had children, she
smiled when I answered no. "Me also, never marry!" she
exclaimed, then laughed. Yesterday she asked my name,
then told me her name is Thing. She spelled it out
very slowly as though she were used to people
questioning if they heard her correctly. I now
affectionately call her Miss Thing. She laughs, but
doesn't quite understand all the implications from a
Gay man from San Francisco.

At Cleopatra's there is a boy named Boy. When I asked
Sa why they named him Boy, she said he is so beautiful
and feminine they though it would end the confusion
many people have about his gender. Now that makes me
wonder if I should ever ask Thing why they chose her
name. Better leave that one alone!

Yesterday they came to clean my bungalow and brought
along a coffee maker, an ashtray (which I immediately
hid under the bed), coffee cups, shampoo, etc. Nothing
major yet, that would allow them to raise my rent.

At the school they are constructing some elaborate
gates from concrete. I get a little paranoid each time
I pass through them now. I have to wonder if they are
constructing it to keep all the tourists from passing
through while the road is in such bad shape. Oh well,
I should just assume the new owners of Laem Sai will
fix the road. Yesterday the exterminators came to
spray all the bungalows with what they call DDT. I'm
hoping the name is just a carry over from days gone
by. They told me to go walk on the beach while they
spray inside my bungalow. I told them if they spray
inside my bungalow I would have to leave for the
airport. "No, No, it all gone in one hour!" All I had
to say was I have asthma. They went away without
spraying my bungalow.

About 5:30 that evening I was working on my computer
when I heard some sort of machine I thought sounded
like a lawn mower. Suddenly I felt a burning sensation
in my nose that quickly spread to my ears and behind
my eyes inside my head. Then I couldn't breathe. I
felt this double thump in my chest and I thought I was
going to have a heart attack. The life seemed to go
out of my body with each thump and I really thought I
was going to die. It was like my brain suddenly lost
the ability to tell my body what to do. I went to the
window and realized the entire bungalow was inside
this huge white thick cloud. Then it occurred to me,
they were spraying for mosquitos! I looked for my
inhaler and couldn't find it. I opened the door to try
to escape and I could see places in the grass where
the machine had come close. It looked like small fires
everywhere with thick white smoke hugging the ground.
When I finally did make it to the beach I kept falling
sideways. I sat in the sand breathing in the salt air,
trying to calm down. By then my entire head was ready
to explode and I felt nauseous. I sat for quite a
while experiencing all these strange sensations I'd
never felt before. I wondered if I should ask someone
to take me to a hospital. Somehow the beach seemed a
better place to be.

When the woman who is in charge of housekeeping found
out what had happened she was almost in tears. She
found me on the beach and caught me as I was falling
sideways. She said her father has asthma and she
understands how difficult it can be. I really wonder
if this was really about asthma or perhaps the
chemicals had attacked my nervous system. She brought
me a plate of fruit, went to my bungalow and wiped
everything down with a wet rag, then offered to bring
a bed to the beach if I wanted to sleep there. There
was no way I could be angry with her. She exhibited
true concern and love. She had no idea the chemicals
would come inside the bungalow. I tried to make her
feel better by telling her it was the responsibility
of the exterminators to know these things. I do think
I would prefer to kill the mosquitos one at a time
when they land on me, though. She said they fogged at
the request of another guest who complained there were
too many mosquitos in the garden.

During the night I had repeated anxiety attacks and
hallucinations. My muscles kept having spasms, my ears
ached, the area around my liver was like a balloon and
my left jaw hurt every time I opened my mouth. It
occurred to me in the night that perhaps they do still
use DDT here. Perhaps living in an upscale resort
community is not all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes
perfection has great hidden costs!

Today is December 24. For you it's December 23. Makes
me confused about which day I should get sad and
sentimental. Maybe this is my way out! Today and
tomorrow I will go by your clock. The next day I'll go
by the Thai clock. That way Christmas will never come
and I won't have to be sad. Of course at 2:00 am, when
I hear footsteps on the roof, I'll have to try
remember it's just the two squirrels building their
nest in the light of the full moon.

Laem Sai, Dec 31, 2002

It has rained steadily now for three days. The
sidewalk in front of my bungalow is slimy green and I
have to walk carefully as if I were back in Illinois
after an ice storm. I went to the beach and brought
back sand to spread over the walkway, but the rains
are so heavy they just keep washing it away. In the
morning I have to be careful not to step on the
millions of tiny frogs jumping out of my way as I wade
through the mud and standing water. The road to
Laemsai is absolutely unbelievable now. It reminds me
of a time back in Illinois when I was driving on a
country dirt road in the early spring thaw. The mud is
so deep an ordinary automobile doesn't have a chance.
The water buffalo was sitting in the swamp this
morning with a snow white heron perched on his back.
The bird seems to be camera shy, because when ever I
take aim he dismounts.

There is something very different about rain in a
tropical jungle setting. Instead of chilling the bones
it seems to wrap itself around you like a warm wet
blanket. The sound of the monsoon rain and wind are
cleansing sounds that wash through the spirit, leaving
one relaxed and peaceful. They come to release you
from obligation, stress and plans. They hold you
suspended under a waterfall that will eventually wash
away the misconception that you are in control of your
life. After moments, then hours, then days of the
unrelenting pull of nature's force you will finally be
uprooted from the concepts and expectations of the
mind. You will flow with the water and it will take
you places you thought you didn't want to go. Then,
when the rain finally stops and the sun appears from
behind the coal black curtain, you awaken like a
flower, nourished and radiant.