Monthly Archives: May 2008

Why I Love My Grandmother

My grandmother and grandfather

My grandmother is 88 years old. That’s her, above, with my late grandfather in 1942. I spent the evening with her today and always enjoy our time together. In addition to being a voracious consumer of newspapers and magazines, she’s more proficient at using the internet than many people I know who are half her age. She regularly emails, does online shopping, and reads news sites.

Today I told her, half-kidding, that she should start a blog, just for kicks. But she was interested in no such thing. “No way,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to share all those personal details online. I’m not crazy!” I think she might be on to something there.

Later in the visit, we were in a pharmacy examining a selection of multivitamins. She turned to me, smiled, and hit me with this riddle: “Now, if they say a pill is chewable, does that mean you have to chew it? What if you just swallow it?” I laughed and thought: that’s a great question. And I have no idea what the answer is.

Hello from NYC

A and I have been in New York City since Monday.

I’d forgotten how much I love this metropolis; I lived here between 1997 and 1999. That was a long time back.

The weather is delightfully crisp (think jeans and a light jacket). The bagels and street-side hot dogs and pizza slices are even tastier than I remember them. And I’ve loved seeing the light filtering through the canyons of skyscrapers once again. Not to mention, of course, Gotham’s finest attribute: the great crush of humanity, with Nigerians and Nicaraguans and Albanians and Alaskans all pressed together on the subway.

There’s only one NYC.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing: If you’re in the area and would like to meet up, we’re getting together with a group of friends at a bar in the West Village tomorrow night (Thurs. the 15th). Email me for details.

I’m Home in the US

I’m home in the US now. Arrived here on Monday. Spent some time in central PA. Currently in Beaufort, SC. Heading up the coast to Charleston in a few minutes. Visits to NYC and DC will come next.

Friends here in the US: email me for my local mobile number.

Posting here will be light for the time being, but I’ll be sending brief dispatches to Twitter.

For now, I can say this: I just had a quintessential South Carolina Lowcountry meal of fried chicken, okra, mac and cheese, banana pudding, and sweet tea.

It’s good to be home.

Stay tuned, mis amigos.

Thailand for Inexperienced Travelers

Bangkok's Khao San Road Goes Upscale [NY Times illustration]

Over at the New York Times’s Travel Q&A Blog, David G. Allan recently pointed out some resources for two inexperienced travelers coming to Thailand. I was happy to see that my Khao San Road story was among the highlighted articles.

Q
I am 18 and not a terribly experienced traveler. I have traveled in the United States, Spain and Portugal. This May a friend and I are braving our way to Thailand. The tickets have been purchased, but the itinerary is not yet set, and we have our anxieties, as do our mothers. Do you have any advice on where to go? We are doing the trip on a budget, and we are looking for a very cultural, and exciting, experience.

Polly Peterson,
Olympia, Wash.

A
Thailand is quite safe in terms of crime, very inexpensive and culturally exciting. You should have an experience that eases your (and your mothers’) anxiety by sticking to well-worn travel paths yet avoiding any elements that cater to foreign tastes in illicit sex or drugs (which is strictly prosecuted).

You will no doubt fly into Bangkok, and you should stay long enough to visit such sites as the Grand Palace and Wat Arun and take a boat ride along the Chao Phraya. If you want to meet fellow backpackers, you might explore Khao San Road as Newley Purnell did in “A Hippie Haven Goes Upscale” (Aug. 19, 2007). For good (and inexpensive) food options, read “Street Smarts in Bangkok” (Jan. 6, 2008) by Joshua Kurlantzick, and for a glimpse into the lives of the city’s up-and-coming artists, read “To Be Young and Hip in Bangkok,” by Matt Gross (Nov. 20, 2005)…

There’s more info in the complete blog post.

Myanmar Cyclone: Over 22,000 Dead and 41,000 Missing

Myanmar Cyclone [NY Times Graphic]

CNN: “Myanmar cyclone survivors desperate for aid”

More than 22,000 killed and 41,000 missing, Myanmar radio reports
Survivor tells how wall of water left bodies in trees, bushes and streams
U.N. has started getting food aid but so far it is only the first step of huge job
U.S. President George Bush says Navy is ready to help if asked

NY Times: “The Cyclone’s Wake, Seen in Taxi Headlights”

Some firsthand impressions, including messages from Westerners who were in Myanmar when the devastating storm struck over the weekend.

AP: “Myanmar cyclone death toll soars past 22,000: state radio”

The cyclone death toll soared above 22,000 on Tuesday and more than 41,000 others were missing as foreign countries mobilized to rush in aid after the country’s deadliest storm on record, state radio reported.

Up to 1 million people may be homeless after Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, early Saturday. Some villages have been almost totally eradicated and vast rice-growing areas are wiped out, the World Food Program said.

AFP: “Aid workers race to reach Myanmar cyclone victims”

Aid workers battled Wednesday to get food and water to desperate cyclone survivors in Myanmar, whose government is under fire after more than 22,000 people died in one of Asia’s worst natural disasters.

More than 41,000 people are also missing, but the United Nations said foreign staff were still awaiting visas from the secretive military regime — which said outside aid workers needed to “negotiate” to enter the country.

Bangkok Pundit has more information.

Thailand Bids Farewell to the Telegraph

Speaking of things slipping into extinction, Thailand has now discontinued use of its telegraph service.

Bangkok Post: “Telegraph service closes after 133 years”

After 133 years, the curtain came down on the telegraph service yesterday in a ceremony which saw several thousand people bid it farewell.

”The last chapter of 133 years of the Thai telegraph will be in the memory of Thais forever,” was the last message sent by telegraph, by Information and Communications Technology Minister Mun Patanotai from the General Post Office.

It was sent to 40,000 people who had reserved a final telegram, according to the Thai News Agency.

On the final day parents, teenagers, the elderly and first-time users packed the headquarters of Thailand Post Plc in Bang Rak district, waiting for hours to send final telegrams to friends, family and loved ones, and to buy souvenirs.

The number of telegrams sent across the country in the final week of the service, which began 133 years ago with a morse key and ended with the teleprinter, rose to 50,000 _ the total usually sent in six months.

The public enthusiasm was overwhelming, said Wiboon Sereechaiporn, assistant vice-president of the corporate and marketing communications department.

”It is in the character of Thais to often feel regret when things that once belonged to them leave them for good.” Among those turning up on the final day was Krisada Limthongtip, 28, who sent telegrams to his friends and family members.

”It is my first and last time for telegrams,” said Mr Krisada as his fingers constantly punched the keyboard of his smart phone.

”I don’t need to use it. I email and skype. But I came here today to soak up the [nostalgic] feeling,” he said.

Actor Supravat Pattamasuit was also at the General Post Office.

”It is a walk down memory lane and I feel nostalgic. I wish this service would remain. But the world changes,” said the 69-year-old, who sent his message saying ”Long Live the King” by telegraph to Chitralada Palace.

The service peaked in 1995, when 12 million telegrams were sent across the country. Last year, only 600,000 telegrams were sent, most of them by commercial banks and debt-collecting agencies.

Thailand Post finally terminated the service at 8pm after shouldering a loss of 300 million baht a year for five consecutive years.

About 1,200 telegraph service staff will be transferred to new positions.

As the telegraph becomes history, Thailand Post officials and a member of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) remain optimistic that letters will not be next to succumb to speedy communications technology like the internet.

”We once feared letters would disappear when there were telephones. But this form of communication stays and even becomes more valuable in terms of sentimental value,” said NTC commissioner Sethaporn Cusripituck.

”We are not worried. People may send emails but the commercial sector still use mail for their business,” Mr Wiboon said. ”People send more postcards. Letters are now special occasions.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Tough day to be a first-time telegraph user. 🙂