With madam and little madam.
Happy Easter everyone.
Today we visited Angtong province to the north of Bangkok for the ordination of one of our cousins – his father is brother of my father-in-law. As is traditional in Thailand for any activity, we left early.
Angtong is about two hours’ drive north of us so, of course, by the time we arrived, everyone had been suffering from hunger for some time. Below, madam and a cousin enjoy a bowl of noodles.
In due course, the procession started to arrive. We could hear them before we could see them.
The dancers danced energetically and looked like they were having a good time. They were accompanied by this mobile band – handcart with portable generator, loudspeakers, keyboard, bass, drums and voice.
Following the band came the second part of the procession, featuring the truck carrying the young man himself, his parents and other VIPS. They were preceded by a lone dancer, who set the pace for the trucks.
Meanwhile, excitement mounted among the waiting throngs.
Finally, the young man himself arrived to join in the procession around the wat – led by the band and dancers. We went three times around clockwise. Unfortunately, every time I tried to take his photo, someone managed to walk past or stand in the way so this is the best I can do. His father is leading the way and mother, in blue, hidden behind various objects, is second,
After the procession, the prospective monk distributed gifts to the crowd and then was hoisted over the threshold into the wat; there was a ceremony after which he was considered to have taken the robe. Subsequently, he was one of a group of monks who returned to the house for a chanting and merit-making ceremony and then it was time for lunch (monks eat first – they must finish before noon) and that was more or less that.
It is Summer in Thailand now: when we got into the car after the lunch session, the thermometer showed 43 degrees. It is still 35 now with the sun finally going down.
There are three principal benefits to completing a graduate degree: the content of the teaching itself; the opportunity to reflect on one’s career and intentions for the future; and the ability to form relationships and networks with like-minded people. For various reasons, we at SIU have done quite well with the first two of these but have never been able to do very well with the third.
To try to fill this gap, I have created a space where my graduate students (and other interested people) can meet and interact with each other. It is at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Walshs-Graduate-Student-Network/297793393683108.
Please feel free to stop by and introduce yourself to the others and maybe you will find a friend or someone who can help you manage your evil supervisor.
We visited the Chinese Temple in Yommarat District earlier today – it is part of the Chinatown of Bangkok. As the Chinese New Year has dawned, it is necessary for people to check their luck, repay their debts if their prayers have been answered and so forth. There is quite a complicated means of working out which parts of the temple should be visited , in which sequence and what kind of ritual performed. Wife and daughter stared at the board for a while working out their routes and duties.
Daughter also did the shaking the box thing – one of the wooden rods will eventually fall out and they have unique numbers – one then refers to the board and takes a copy of the appropriate numbered piece of papers which gives advice on what is going to happen in the future. In this case, daughter received good news and seemed happy enough that good luck was coming her way.
I am back in the office now after the trip to Penang at the end of last week to present a paper at a USM conference and then a day trip to Chiang Rai yesterday to do a session for the Rajabhat University’s new PhD program on development in the Mekong Region (the photo below is of one of the monuments to the Princess Mother, this one to do with the zodiac – rabbit is at the bottom).
Time to get on with some editing work this week, in addition to various other deadlines which are looming.
Back from Laos now, where I was participating in the 9th SMEs in a Global Economy Conference, which went well, I think. There were some quite good papers, networking and so forth. The organizers and helpers were all very friendly and helpful. Next year’s conference is schueduled to be in Vietnam, although details are not yet confirmed. I should mention this year’s conerence was sponsored by the Asian Development Bank.
Vientiane itself was looking very modern and spruce, at least along the main drag and the international hotel area. This is a view of the presidential palace, down by the Mekong, together with a sign for the ASEM which had just finished and helps explain all the neatness.
Vientiane itself was completely destroyed and abandoned in the nineteenth century so the city that we see today was rebuilt extensively by the French (for the purpose of being a provincial administrative centre for the empire) according to Haussmannesque guidelines – see for example the broad, tree-lined avenues (below) which look pleasant but also have the effect of extending the state’s power into every aspect of the city – you cannot hide from the authorities on streets like this.
A little further along, overlooking the River Mekong and gesturing in a possibly friendly way to neighbours, is the founding hero Fa Ngum.
At the foot of this statue is a small market where it is possible to buy pictures and memorabilia of the heroes of the revolution: Marx, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and Kaysone Phomvihane, among others.
Today’s dramatic events saw our Ladprao castle invaded by a horrible dragon, nobly spotted by eagle-eyed daughter. Sir Daddy leapt downstairs and, pausing only to seize an umbrella (and cough a little as mother-in-law was intent on spraying the world to death with anti-insect spray), rousted the monster from behind the sofa and beat it mercilessly to death.
This mighty, vicious and pernicious beast (courtesy of these guys) is, I think, what the creature was – Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima (Golden Tree Snake) (ngu kieo lai dok mak) – it is supposed not to be dangerous to human beings but poisonous nevertheless, a member of the viper family, prone to biting immediately when cornered and able to climb walls (which it had done). This one was perhaps 30 cm or 12 inches long, perhaps a little longer and no thicker and any point than my little finger. Admittedly, I have been reliably informed that I have fingers like sausages but there you go.
Did I tell you I killed a preying or possible praying mantis in Sudan once?
Available now at Bewildering Stories (here).
As I continue to strive to bring you urgent, breaking news from the Heart of Bangkok, here is a timely photo:
On the left are books I have started to read but not yet quite finished; in the centre are books that I have finished reading and I will review once I get the time; on the right are books that have been read and reviewed but from which I still need to make some notes – some time in the future I may wish to refer to something in one or more of them and so it is useful to know where to look.
Yesterday (July 28th) was graduation day for SIU and I was out at the main campus to attend and also pick up an award for research excellence. Congratulations to all the students who have successfully made it to the end of their degrees!
Keynote speaker was Dr. Likhit Dhiravegin, one of the 111 (see not very good photo below). His speech quoted, inter alia, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Chinese proverbs and something in Latin I did not recognise.