forever in our hearts
Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin The Minister of Education speaks
The American, Australian, and Portuguese Ambassadors interviewed. Going it alone in Bangkok, The Carioca way of life, New wave collectors shake up Thai society, Between the two cultures... Please read, enjoy and share. facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 1
FEATURES 8 H.E. Francisco Vazpatto The Portuguese Ambassador to Thailand 12 H.E. Paul Robilliard The Australian Ambassador 14 Great and Good Friends 20 Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, The Minister of Education in Thailand 122 Dancing queen
EDUCATION 24 Mindfulness in educational leadership 26 The “Arts in Education” Exhibition and Concert 30 Creative learning makes creative thinkers 37 From ‘third culture kid’ to parent of ‘cross cultural kids’
2015 Mr. Francisco arrived to Thailand as Ambassador for 6 countries; Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
40 An incredible journey: interview with Julian Thomas 44 Visiting schools on the islands off Satun province 47 Educating Thailand - the long and winding road 50 Are you saving for you children’s university or are they paying the fees?
72 Age related hearing loss: how to cope with it?
52 A day out with the kids in Bangkok
75 A healthy business
56 Oppositional kids in the classroom 58 The British Council in Thailand
RETIRING TO THAILAND
78 Retiring to Thailand?
62 Traditional vs integrative medicine
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148 What do I eat?
84 An interview with John Lee
64 Blackmores Institute Sharing knowledge, changing lives
86 Singapore - forever in our hearts
68 Dieting exit strategies
90 Following the caboose in Muscat
70 Advancements in technology to treat a cardiac problem
94 Philippine sea - a divers haven
New wave collectors shake up Thai society - Page 106
96 A Carioca way of life
106 How do you say goodbye to a continent?
New Primary School Campus
ART AND CULTURE
Opening August 2018
100 Nepal: Land of dreams 104 Summer cricket down under
110 New wave collectors shake up Thai Society 112 The Expat Book Club review 140 The new American dream
FASHION 116 Spring Fashion
The Carioca way of life Going it alone in Bangkok
120 Between the two cultures 126 When the expat social scene messes with your mind and mood
Shrewsbury City Campus Sukhumvit – Rama 9
128 Going it alone in Bangkok 142 Wherever you go, take traditions with you 145 When you suddenly get time to reflect about life... Unwillingly though!
MIND MATTERS 130 7 simple ways to speak your mind with confidence - without fearing rejection
FAMILY AND RELATIONSHIPS 134 How do we express our love, friendship and kindness? 136 Kindness... is all around
FOOD 144 A love for Kimchi
HI TECH 146 Crypto trading 101
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Family brunch at The Coffee Club by Scott and Nori Brixen
e are always looking for family-friendly breakfast/brunch places that open by 7am - which is when our four boys are ready to eat! Although there are many boutique coffee shops in Bangkok, we really like The Coffee Club. The brand is originally from Australia but is now owned by Minor Group, the Thai hotel and restaurant/food service group. The Coffee Club has numerous locations across the country (standalone, inside shopping malls, airports and at key locations). They’ve got an extensive (mostly Western) menu that has something to suit each of us. For breakfast, they have a range of sweet and savoury dishes as well as some freshly made pastries. My boys usually order the pancakes: a trio of thick, fluffy flapjacks. Logan likes the plain ones (with syrup) while the other boys like the fruity ones. They’ve recently added Nutella Pancakes with fresh berries to the menu. (The boys love it, of course, but it seems more dessert than breakfast food.) Scott tends to order the Big Breakfast or the chorizo omelette, while I almost always order the poached eggs with avocado. But I recently had their “loaded” bacon and avocado smash croissant and it’s now my favourite dish there. The coffee there is good (not burnt like at Starbucks) but it is a little on
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the weak side - we both like our coffee stronger. If you like frappes or sweet drinks, then you’re spoilt for choices. They offer a dozen choices for frappes from coffee/tea based to fruity ones. They even offer wine, cocktails and craft beers but unfortunately they don’t offer fresh juices - yet! We also like the spaciousness of their restaurants. Our boys are loud and tend to wander around the restaurant after they’ve eaten, so it’s nice when the outlets are spacious and/or on multiple levels like at The Coffee Club near us on Soi Convent. At that early hour, we are usually the only ones on the 2nd floor which is nice for us (and for everyone downstairs). The staff are always friendly and attentive. They always smile even though my boys are generally quite loud and not the cleanest of eaters. Staff are also good at dealing with requests like sauce/syrup on the side, no nuts, etc. And they are generally very efficient in taking our orders getting the food to our table quickly. During off-peak hours, I’ve come here several times to catch up on writing on my laptop. The chairs are comfortable and the air-con is strong which is nice when it’s blazing outside. The free wi-fi is usually quite fast. I think the pricing is quite reasonable considering what you get: good-sized portions of tasty food, and a cool, clean and comfortable environment. Dining out is never cheap when you have a family of 6 (our boys will often order two breakfasts!) but as a special treat The Coffee Club is excellent.
GOOD FOOD, GREAT SERVICE, EXCELLENT COFFEE facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 7 The Coffee Club Thailand
Feature was not sure this was what he was meant to be. He decided to have a look into the diplomatic world, took another exam and became part of the diplomatic society with a new career. (A very wise decision if you ask me). At the age of 24, he began working for the Foreign Ministry. I used to ask every Ambassador, if there is anyone else in the family working as a diplomat, but this is not the case in Francisco’s family. He stayed and worked for a couple of years in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. In 1995 he was sent to Bonn, the capital of Germany at the time. (On 3 October 1990, the two parts of Germany were reunified as the Federal Republic of Germany and Berlin again became the official German capital. In 1991, the German Parliament, The Bundestag, voted to move the seat of the German capital from Bonn to Berlin, which was completed in 1991). Francisco stayed until 1999 in Berlin. He also worked for a year in Brussels at the NATO delegation, but went back to Berlin and stayed there until end of 2000.
H.E. Francisco Vaz Patto The Portuguese Ambassador to Thailand Portugal, the country that discovered Thailand long ago and still plays a vital role in the Thai life. by Agneta de Bekassy, photographs by Daniel Herron
arly one weekday morning photographer Daniel Herron and I went to pay a visit to H.E. Francisco Vaz Patto, at his beautiful residence down on Chao Phraya River, next to Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel. We were greeted by a group of amazing looking peacocks and likewise a good-looking Ambassador. Francisco knows how to make you feel relaxed and comfortable; he’s a man with lots of charm and class.
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As is with many of the Ambassadors, he has a colourful background. He was born in Mozambique. His father was a doctor and served in the military during the Colonial War for 4 years. Francisco lived 2 years in Mozambique before the family moved to Coimbra, Portugal and then later to a small village. He went to boarding school for a few years and later on to Lisbon for university studies. He studied law, graduated, but never took the bar exams, as he
Angola is an interesting country, sometimes very difficult though. You can describe the relationship as a kind of love/hate. The civil war period was going on for 4 years and Francisco lived in a secured compound.
Next the Ambassador makes the long move to Angola, a former Portuguese colony. Portugal and Angola have a strong connection we were told. Angola is an interesting country, sometimes very difficult though. You can describe the relationship as a kind of love/hate. The civil war period was going on for 4 years and Francisco lived in a secured compound. Outside there was fierce fighting going on in the city. During these years I really learned a lot he says. After the experiences in Angola, it was time to go back to Lisbon and the Defence Ministry. This was an intense assignment, having many departments to look after, among them Chief of Staff. Here you learn to be real diplomatic he points out. 2009 it was time to leave Portugal for New York City. A post at the United
“I use to ask every Ambassador, if there is anyone else in the family working as a diplomat, but this is not the case in Francisco’s family. He stayed and worked for a couple of years in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.” Nations was calling. During this time, Portugal was campaigning for a 2 years period to become member of the Security Council, that has 50 members and in 2009 Portugal was elected a member. Francisco stayed and worked at the United Nations until 2012. Then it was time to return to Lisbon, but only for a brief stay. A new challenge waited as he was appointed Ambassador to Palestine in 2013. That was a challenge, but interesting with lots of crises, so no easy task looking after budgets, properties, all over administration etc. 2015 Francisco arrived to Thailand as Ambassador for 6 countries; Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Embassy in Bangkok is relatively small with only 7 employees. It’s no wonder the Ambassador is travelling constantly. He visits these countries frequently. He has something good and specific to say about all of them; Laos with Luang Prabang, he finds beautiful and I fully agree. Luang Prabang is peaceful and picturesque. With Malaysia, Portugal has a very long relationship. Myanmar is going through hard times with many problems, but has beautiful scenery and will develop as soon as it becomes more controlled with its situations. Vietnam has flair and facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 9
To Francisco, it is very important to promote relations between Thailand and Portugal; he wants the bonds to become stronger, promote trading, investments, culture, education, languages and much more. still a touch of France, Cambodia, with Siam Riep and the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat. He has also travelled a lot in Thailand and as many of us; he likes the places up in the north, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Udon Thani (Isaan) etc. To Francisco, it is very important to promote relations between Thailand and Portugal; he wants the bonds to become stronger, promote trading, investments, culture, education, languages and much more. Today quite a few students from Thailand go to Portugal for studies. Portugal offers a higher education with professors also teaching in English. Here in Thailand we also find Portuguese teachers at several universities. It’s popular among Thai students to go to Portugal for 1 year and there is a customised exchanging programme. 500 years ago, the first Portuguese arrived to Thailand as traders. They put up warehouses and settled on the Thonburi side as a community. The Catholic Church Santa Cruz, was built in 1770 during the reign of King Taksin (1868-1782) and there is also a family owned 10 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
museum that still exists. In this community people with different religions settled down and lived peacefully with each other. The Church of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz) is a legacy of PortugueseSiamese relations and a prominent landmark on the Chao Phraya River. So what did the Portuguese traders sell? They traded with guns and cannons that gave power to the Thai king. Portugal has never been seen as a conqueror; the people came as friends and became part of the community. The Portuguese residence was built in 1860, but the land was given to the Portuguese in 1820. If we look at trading relations today, it’s not as strong as it was, Francisco points out, but it’s growing day by day. Portugal has become popular for Thai investors. Minor Group bought a hotel chain in Portugal named Tivoli. “Thai can fish” is also a brand that is big in Portugal, don’t forget tourism. The first agreement of friendship and trade between the 2 countries was signed in 1518, meaning that this year, a 500 year’s celebration
starts. In fact, Portugal was the first Western country to sign a trading agreement with Thailand. In July and December, several big events will take place to celebrate the friendship, a big year for both countries. As an Ambassador you have long working days. A morning for Francisco normally starts around 7:30am with breakfast and reading the newspapers. There are all kinds of meetings, in the embassy and outside. Working breakfasts, lunches and dinners, not to forget receptions which are part of daily life. Francisco is more of a night owl he admits. I ask him about his time “off duty”, he smiles a bit and says, “Well, I like to travel around the city. I like to visit Chinatown, travelling and I read a great deal. He and Kevin, his spouse, started to take Thai classes and studied for 6 months, but gave up due to lack of time. When it comes to food, he admits he likes Thai food, but not too spicy. He also told us that the Piri Piri (kind of chilli) surprisingly arrived from Portugal to Thailand. At the residence a Portuguese chef is in charge, but she can also cook
Thai dishes. “Portuguese food is comfort food” he says with a smile. We need to do more promotion of Portuguese food and wines he says. Portugal has a wide range of good wines at moderate prices, compared to wines from Spain and France. He also says that the Portuguese oil and meat need more promotion. Then we got a scoop; an authentic Portuguese restaurant will soon be opening in Bangkok as the 1st official Portuguese restaurant. We asked where, but are told to be patient. He promises to inform us soon. Many Thai desserts are originally Portuguese. Thais people did not use eggs in desserts, but learnt this from the Portuguese. There will be, at least one event this year, where a Portuguese and Thai chef prepare dishes together. Francisco informs us that in his area, there is a very good restaurant called 80/20, serving new Thai cuisine with local products and another one called 160 Makaseth. I wanted to know if there was a special moment, event, experience he always will remember, something he has been a part off. The answer came quickly; “The cremation of the late King Bhumibol. That will always be a memory; it was sad, but still very beautiful.” Next classic question; if you could choose your next destination to be posted, where would it be? “Well, I think it’s bad luck to wish for a special destination, as then you probably won’t get it but, I wouldn’t mind staying in Asia or getting back a bit closer to home. My parents are both still alive and it would be nice to see them a bit more often”. Francisco got married to Kevin not long ago. They married in Portugal in October, as marriages between same genders, is still not legal in Thailand. We had a
very nice wedding celebration here in our garden in December, he says. Kevin is a New Yorker and teacher. He works online for several universities and he is busy with SHOM (the organisation for the Ambassador’s spouses). As Kevin has publishing experiences, he helped publish a book in English and Thai with folk stories, last year, a SHOM project. This book can be found in Thai public schools. Two final questions; is there anything specific you would like me to mention I asked; “Yes, I want to make clear that Portugal is not such a conservative country as people might think, it has developed into a very modern country and my wish is that more Thai people would travel to visit Portugal. We have so much to offer, modern museums, new apps and a new economic development. Small businesses are starting up, but can easily grow to become big and successful. Please, travel to Portugal and experience our country, as you will not regret it.” Last question; if you could choose one person, anyone in the whole world, to have a private dinner with, who would it be? Now I get a big smile, “well I have been
thinking about that question; I would love to have dinner with the very first Portuguese trader who came here 500 years ago:” Now it was my turn to smile, what a smart answer. We thanked Francisco for a pleasant talk in his beautiful gardens and waved goodbye to the peacocks.
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H. E. Paul Robilliard The Australian Ambassador to Thailand by Agneta de Bekassy, photographs by Daniel Herron
n February the 6th, photographer Daniel Herron and I went to visit the Australian Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Paul Robilliard at the new and very modern embassy residence on Wireless Road. The new Australian Embassy and its residence are extensive buildings with lots of bare brick and concrete and a very modern, quite minimalistic architecture. When you pass the heavy metal doors you escape the noise and bustle of Wireless and Rama IV Roads. Ambassador Robilliard and his media officer Ms Pananya Jira-Alongkorn, Belle, welcomed us. (Belle explained that she got her nickname because her mother was fond of the story about “Beauty and the Beast”.) We were shown into an expansive reception room decorated with contemporary furniture and works of Australian indigenous art and a Tasmanian artist who the Ambassador knows personally, and a grand piano. I asked the Ambassador if he played the piano, but he said “unfortunately not”. This new residence is different in architecture and design, than the past one which was located on Sathorn. I asked a bit about Paul’s background and found that he was born in England and both parents were teachers. At the age of 3 months, they moved to a small country town in southern Tasmania. This is also where Denmark’s beautiful Crown Princess Mary, comes from. 12 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
As did Errol Flynn. Paul went to school in the small Tasmanian town, but later on studied at the Australian National University in Australia’s capital, Canberra. I was curious to know if there were more diplomat’s in his family, but Paul shook his head and said no. He had not thought about a diplomatic career himself, as he was more interested in an academic career. Sometimes it just happens, we call it destiny? In 1979 he happened to see an interesting advertisement in the paper for the Foreign Service. He took the chance, applied and was accepted. His first post as an Ambassador was in Syria and Lebanon in 1992. At that time Lebanon was recovering from the recent civil war. He had served previously in Lebanon and Syria between 1982 and 1984. In Lebanon he met his future wife and they were married in Byblos in 1994. His wife was at that time working in the Lebanese parliament. They have two daughters, one studying in Sydney and one in Canberra. Those years were interesting he acknowledges. I asked if he could speak Arabic and he told us he studied it in Cairo, Egypt in the early eighties. All together he stayed just over three years in Syria/Lebanon. Before Bangkok, he also served in
Honolulu as Consul General and later on became Deputy Ambassador in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the late 1980s he was in Singapore for three years, but that was before Syria/Lebanon. He has had a range of jobs at headquarters in Canberra as well as working in the offices of the Australian Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) and an Australian Foreign Minister (Gareth Evans). In October 2014, he came with his wife to Bangkok as Australia’s Ambassador to Thailand. The Australian Embassy in Bangkok is the country’s fourth largest Embassy in the world. Well over 200 people
work in the Embassy. I asked him about his special “niche” - what are his goals and the most important objectives he wants to achieve during his time in Thailand? Almost every Ambassador has a topic they care particularly about. The Swedish Ambassador for example is deeply engaged in gender equality and works hard for all people’s rights. Paul said he has very close cooperation with the Ambassador Staffan Herrström and shares his passion in this matter. They are both “HeForShe” Ambassadors. Of course a very important topic is to strengthen the relationship between Australia and Thailand. That relationship is both very broad and deep and covers a wide range of areas. The economic and commercial relationship is very important for both countries, with over $20 billion dollars of two way trade and significant investment from both sides. The military relationship is a long and important one and there is important cooperation between the two countries law enforcement agencies. Australian tourism to Thailand has been significant for many years (the Bangkok Embassy is Australia’s busiest consular post) and Thai tourism to Australia is growing. Education is also important. 30,000 Thai students study in Australia and this year 450 young Australian undergraduates will come
to Thailand under the New Colombo Plan to study and do internships. Australia Thailand diplomatic relations stretch back over 66 years, and the two countries work together on a range of regional and international issues. Australia was ASEAN’s first dialogue partner and in March the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will host the leaders of the ten ASEAN countries at a Special Summit in Sydney. I asked if the Ambassador had experienced any serious difficulties since he arrived in Thailand and his answer came rapidly; “not at all, the Thai people are friendly and welcoming”. Paul is both an early bird and a night owl. He prefers to get to the office very early and clear his desk before the telephone starts ringing and the work of the day starts in earnest. During the week he hosts several events at the residence - breakfasts, lunches, dinners and receptions. He tries to attend as many of the other embassies national days as possible and has an extensive range of meetings with Thai officials and the private sector, and speaking to various seminars and conferences. Not much time left for private entertainment. If he and his wife do find some time off, they enjoy going to concerts and they are avid opera fans. They have frequently enjoyed the Dance and Music Festival that takes place every year, and they have also visited the beautiful concert hall Sala Sudasiri Sodha in Lad Prao several times. Reading, walking and the cinema are also popular free-time pastimes. What about travelling was my next question. “Oh, I have travelled a lot in Thailand and enjoyed it all but I especially like Chiang Mai which I first visited in 1987. Life is calmer and the air is cleaner and fresh up in the north and it’s just beautiful” he says. And of course places like Phuket have been a travel destination. When it comes to food, Paul says he likes more or less everything. He enjoys Thai food and he is full of
praise for his Thai chef at the residence. “Having a good cook is important for an Ambassador and I’m lucky to have on the best in Bangkok.” Do you have any special memories of your time in Thailand so far I asked; “Yes, I must mention the cremation of the late, beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. That was a memorable event and I was proud to be among the guests attending from all over the world. It was a sad day for all the Thai people and an era is gone, the late King will be missed by us all.” When your time as Ambassador in Thailand comes to an end, where would you like your next post to be? “Well, I really don’t have any preferences. I’m proud to represent my country wherever it will be”, a good answer I replied! Paul’s wife has also settled well in Bangkok and like most spouses, she is busy with SHOM (Spouses to the Heads of Mission (Ambassadors) organisation). I had one more final question to ask; if you could choose one person in the world to enjoy a private dinner with, who would it be? Now comes the very diplomatic, but sincere answer “My wife, of course”. With this last question we bid farewell of Ambassador Paul Robilliard and his media officer Khun Belle. Thank you for an interesting talk and our visit to your impressive new Embassy and residence.
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Great and Good Friends 200 years strong Thai and US friendship. by Agneta de Bekassy, photographs by Daniel Herron
n Thursday the 8th February Daniel Herron and I went to the American Ambassador’s beautiful residence on Wireless Road to attend a major press event. This is an important and special year for Thai and U.S. relations. It marks 200 years of friendship between the two countries. H.E. Ambassador Glyn Davies welcomed a large group of Thai and foreign media to talk about the soon to open exhibition “Great and Good Friends” historic gifts between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America, 1818-2018. This exhibition will be presented at the “Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles” on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, opening on March 21st through to June 30th. At the exhibition, the official gifts exchanged between the two nations will be on display. Ambassador Davies pointed out the deep ties between the people of the U.S. and Thailand. 14 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
It was easy to see this was a passionate topic for the Ambassador and he encouraged us to visit the The Queen Sirikit Textile Museum. Our two countries have been close friends for a long time, he said, and these exchanged gifts helped to manifest that friendship. At the exhibition you can admire royal gifts from the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, King Chulalongkorn and King Mongkut amongst others and of course, from respective American Presidents. All the gifts tell a story of two different worlds, uniting on a basis of friendship and understanding. The story began when an American sea captain entered the port of Bangkok, two centuries ago and initiated a historic friendship. The U.S. was at that time, a young republic with little knowledge about what was going on beyond the Atlantic Ocean and with little political experience. The American captain returned to the U.S. with a letter he was asked to present the document to President James Monroe from Khun Dit Bunnag, the Thai Foreign Minister, conveying the wishes of His Majesty King Rama II to
establish trade between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Siam. The letter was dated August 15, 1818, the first step to the alliance, one that remains strong today. The two hundred year period that we celebrate with this exhibition closes with the last day of the glorious seventy year reign of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The King and Queen helped the U.S.-Thai relationship to thrive. An exhibition of this format couldn’t take place without sponsorships. Several companies have contributed to this unique exhibition, some of the goods never have been displayed in public before. The presenters were Amata, B. Grimm Power, Chevron, Amway, CP, Siam Piwat, Icon Siam, Thai Bev, SCG and Dow. Co presenters are BJC, RMA Group and sponsors Amcham, Conrad, Jim Thompson, John F. Kennedy Foundation of Thailand for Thai-American Friendship, Major Cineplex, McDonald’s, VGI Global Media. Contributors Tilleke & Gibbins and US-ASEAN and partners; Meridian, Bangkok’s Dance and Music Festival and Google. Separately, Ambassador Davies shared his thoughts with Daniel and me. This man has such class and dignity. He
reminds me of an actor, but I can’t figure out who. I asked what his first thought was when he learned he was to be assigned to Thailand. “I was naturally very excited. Jackie and I counted ourselves lucky to be chosen for Thailand. I was also honoured. To represent the United States to the government and people of Thailand is a big responsibility. But above all, I knew it would be a pleasure to serve here and to get to know the people of Thailand and to see the country.” I asked what, if any, misconceptions about your country have you heard about being here. “The Thai and American people understand each other well and have a great affection towards one another. About 75,000 Americans live in Thailand and around 300,000 Thais are living in the U.S. Many of those have become U.S. citizens. Last year, the annual number of American visitors to Thailand surpassed one million. There is a strong interest among Thai students to travel and study in America. There are more than 7,000 Thai students studying in the United States today. There is one common misconception we hear from Thais: that it is difficult to obtain a U.S. visa. This isn’t true. Most Thais can get a visa to visit the United States in just a day or two. Specialised visas like student visas can take longer.” I also wanted to know if the Ambassador had any misconceptions about Thailand. “I had visited Thailand before I was posted here, but had facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 15
spent very little time outside Bangkok; I was surprised and happy to see the huge cultural and natural diversity of Thailand. Both my wife and I enjoy meeting different people, learning about Thai history and trying regional cuisines. We’ve loved visiting the resort communities in the South, the mountains in the North, and the towns and villages of the East and Northeast. We often visit nearby destinations like Khao Yai, Ayutthaya or Kanchanaburi.” What impresses you most about the Thai people? “Of course, their warmth. They are as friendly as their international reputation. Everywhere we have visited, we have been welcomed with warm smiles and kindness.” What do you miss the most about your home country? “Naturally one of the challenges for all diplomats living abroad, whether they are Americans serving in SE Asia or Thai diplomats serving in Washington D.C., Los Angeles or elsewhere, is the distance from friends and family who remain at home. Though we grow used to it, we of course miss our loved ones in the United States. Luckily our two daughters, son-in-law and our granddaughters have visited us here often.” An average day for the Ambassador starts with breakfast together with his wife and the daily papers. “After breakfast I head to the Embassy (not far away). Meetings with colleagues and visitors or around town with Thai counterparts. Telephone calls with U.S. government offices
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back in the States. I also try to go out at least once a month to visit a province.” What about exercise, I was curious to know; “Well, I do exercise most mornings. I run on the treadmill and do weights. During weekends I get out for walks and swimming. Both my wife and I like to keep active. Are you a night owl or an early bird? “I would say probably more an early bird. I feel fresh in the morning. I suppose, at a younger age, I was more a night owl, but today when I attend evening events, I try not to be out too late.” Have you been able to travel around outside Thailand to discover the rest of Asia? “Yes, as Bangkok has such a central position in Asia and there are great flight connections, we have been able to visit all 5 of the neighbouring countries. We have also managed to visit 40 provinces so far. In January we spent a weekend in Penang, which we enjoyed very much.” Do you have a favourite destination? “Well, we have visited Sukhothai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Koh Chang many times, and many more destinations, so I find it hard to pick just one. They all have their own beauty and charm. I would like to encourage all Americans to travel around Thailand. The beaches are world class, the culinary diversity is endless. If you haven’t been to Kamphaeng Phet yet, I really encourage you to go there. We were so impressed with the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we toured.” I also had to ask about the Ambassadors Thai and if he takes classes. “Mai khuay dii thaorai,” I got as an answer. “Thai is a beautiful but difficult language for us. Both Jackie and I have taken weekly classes with great teachers. I think it has helped, but for official meetings I have the indispensable help of our excellent interpreter Khun Duen.” Do you like Thai food and can you eat spicy food? “In Bangkok you have a bouquet of the best food in the world and to be fortunate to eat Thai food every day is one of the best thing with being assigned to the Kingdom. I can take the heat, the spicier the better” he says with a big smile. Have you any favourite restaurant in Bangkok? “We went lately to Jay Fai’s street food restaurant and her crab omelette was one of the best tasting dishes I’ve had for years.” What is your most memorable experience since you arrived here? Here the Ambassador tells the same as all Ambassador’s I have interviewed of late. “To attend the Royal Cremation Ceremony for His Late Majesty King Rama IX.
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We know that all Ambassadors have a goal, something they want to achieve while staying in Thailand, what is yours? “During the solemn mourning period for His Late Majesty King Bhumibol, I learnt a lot about his life and work. On his visit to the U.S. in 1960, he talked to Congress and the American people and said; “Friendship of one people for another… assuredly guarantees peace and progress.” It has been my goal to promote the people-to-people friendship he spoke of. That is the reason we are devoting 2018 to a yearlong celebration of the Thai-U.S. friendship bicentennial.” Any specific wish for the Thai people? “First of all, peace, prosperity, happiness and reconciliation and that the Thai people will know that the people of the U.S. will always stand by them.” If you could choose your next destination, where would it be? “I haven’t been thinking very much about that, but maybe somewhere closer to our Washington DC home.” My last and favourite question; If you could pick one person in the whole world to have a private dinner with, who would it be? “If I could travel back in time, I would have loved to be assigned as Ambassador to the Court of Rama IV to have dined with his Majesty King Mongkut. He was a remarkable historical figure, a diplomat, linguist, scientist and scholar. It is said that he could talk about any subject – from eclipses to electricity, and from geography to geopolitics. That would be remarkable.” Thank you, Ambassador Davies, for an interesting afternoon at your beautiful residence.
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Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, The Minister of Education in Thailand by Jocelyn Pollack
xample. Expectation. Consequence”. This is the no-nonsense mantra that the current Minister of Education, Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, has based his approach to reshaping Thai education. The much criticised Thai Ministry of Education is experiencing a level of stability and leadership under Dr Teerakiat that it has not experienced in over 20 years. He was appointed as Deputy Minister in 2014, became Vice Minister and then became the Minister in December 2016. It’s no surprise that with a revolving door of Ministers of Education, 21 in 18 years to be exact, that reform did not stand a chance. With each new minister came new projects and initiatives; out with the old, in with the new but many survived making it a bureaucratic nightmare. Call centres without telephones, internet and intranet systems draining budgets, resources wasted across the country. Too many bureaucrats and disillusioned teachers at the sharp end. Dr Teerakiat, a child psychiatrist practicing in the UK by trade, has stepped up to take on the role at a time when the Thai education system
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has reached a tipping point. There are 30,000 civil servants working for Thailand’s bloated Ministry of Education making it one of the largest ministries in the world. To put that number in context, China, with a population of nearly 1.4 billion, has just 1000 civil servants. With so many people working at the Ministry, it would be natural to assume that Thai students should be some of the best in the world, but study after study has shown that in fact, Thais consistently score near the bottom. Dr Teerakiat, a scientist at heart, has taken an approach analysing the symptoms, diagnosing the problem and implementing a long-term cure rather than slapping a bandage on it and rotating out of his position to move on to bigger and better government jobs. Just like any scientist would do, Dr
Teerakiat first looked at the current situation to see exactly what was wrong before implementing any kinds of changes. He secretly toured schools before his appointment to find out what the major problems were and saw what he refers to as ‘intensive care unit’ schools. One of the most interesting things that his team found was the actual statistics behind the ability of Thai English teachers. All 40,000 Thai English teachers were tested using Cambridge English standards. The results were telling. Only 6 teachers scored as fluent, or at C level. Even more shockingly, just 350, were scored at B level, or
intermediate. This left nearly all teachers as advanced beginners at best. It was truly like the blind leading the blind. So, Dr Teerakiat recognised that these teachers were desperately in need of training. The Ministry worked closely with the British Council to develop a weeks long boot camp for Thai English teachers in order to begin to bring them up to speed. The first wave of teachers just recently completed the training and their reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Another problem that Dr Teerakiat analysed was the quality of the 400,000 teachers in Thai public schools and the fact that over 200,000 of them would be retiring within the next 10 years, leaving Thailand not only with a quality issue but also a manpower issue. How to remedy this? In Thailand, if you graduate from the best university in the country, Chulalongkorn University, with a degree in biology, you are not allowed to teach. You can only teach if you go to one of the teacher colleges. This means that some of the best and brightest minds in Thailand are barred from teaching the younger generations simply because they chose to pursue the best education available in the country. This did not make sense to Dr Teerakiat, so he repealed
that rule. Now, if you graduate with a degree in biology from anywhere, you are allowed to teach. This policy will not only give the brightest minds the opportunity to be in the classroom, but it will also help to alleviate the manpower issue of losing so many teachers in the next decade. One of the most criticised practices in the Thai education system is their foundation in rote memorisation. If there is a unit on the Titanic, for example, a Western school would have a history teacher focusing on the history, a science teacher teaching about icebergs, an English teacher using journals of passengers, maybe even an art teacher teaching how to paint a boat. In Thailand, a unit on the Titanic would be: Who was the captain? A, B, C, D. When did it sink? A, B, C, D. For Thailand to remain competitive in the future, Dr Teerakiat recognises that critical thinking and common sense are absolutely essential because computers will be able to process the information more quickly than a human. However, when I asked him why he hasn’t enacted a major reform to combat rote memorisation, he had a very insightful point. He said, “Reform can’t be created, it must evolve.” He then went on to explain that the rote system exists because
“This means that some of the best and brightest minds in Thailand are barred from teaching the younger generations simply because they chose to pursue the best education available in the country.” without it, there is nothing. If you remove it, then what’s left? Nothing. So rather than removing and replacing the antiquated system, he is focused on “properly allocating resources and operating under the rule of law” to allow the system to breathe and evolve into something that supports the modern market demands. Thailand’s challenge is a major one: the latest triennial programme for International Student Assessment results ranked it 54 out of 70 countries, even though education received about a fifth of the 2.73 trillion Baht ($81 billion) annual budget, one of the largest expenditure items. Singapore was the top performer in the PISA assessment, with Japan second, Taiwan fourth, China sixth and Vietnam eighth.
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When it comes to international schools, Dr Teerakiat believes two main things. First, overseas universities should be allowed to establish campuses in Thailand (previously, they were not allowed). Two universities, Carnegie Mellon and The National University of Taiwan, have already opened campuses in Thailand and there are several others coming down the pipeline. In terms of K-12 international schools, he believes that the MOE’s job is “to control the quality of these schools, not meddle with their businesses.” As a strong believer in market systems, he said, “If they are meeting their quality criteria, I want to get out of the way of international schools”. He believes that in the globalising world, it would be wise for Thailand to embrace international education rather than shun it. All of these are examples of how he and his team have taken a much more analytical and fact-based approach to the problems at hand, but the current jewel of his reforms is a teacher training voucher system. The professional development system for teachers in the past provided no incentive to teachers to retrain and develop themselves. The lack of accountability for these training resources left the ministry incredibly vulnerable to corruption. Dr Teerakiat’s robust reform distributes 10,000B directly to each teacher to allow them to choose the training that is relevant to them. This money can be used for over 2000 professional development training courses, all of which are tracked online with the hope of reducing corruption and the “disappearance” of these funds. Within one month of launching this system, 320,000 of the 400,000 teachers had already enrolled and the MoE training website which had previously received a couple hits a day peaked at nearly 28 million in one day. Dr Teerakiat is self-admittedly rattling the cage of a lot of people with his revolutionary reforms and believes that in order for Thailand to reach its 22 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
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potential, these are non-negotiable changes that need to be made. As he has spent a large portion of his life living, working and raising a family in the UK, he feels a unique connection to the expat community. As he continues to push forward with his cures, he hopes that the expat community will support his initiatives to bring a more global, well-rounded education to the children of Thailand. “We have 30,000 bureaucrats who don’t teach but are running schools,” Education Minister Teerakiat said in the July 12 interview, signaling that one of the main obstacles to reform may be the Education Ministry itself. “In Vietnam, there’re only 70 in their ministry.” Dr Teerakiat, who has a background in child and adolescent psychiatry, said corruption has been another problem. “If I were like the previous politicians, I’ll be the richest man this month,” he said, pointing out the Education Minister has discretion over 4 billion Baht in unspent education budget funds. Dr Teerakiat said a bottom up strategy that gives schools and universities more autonomy to make decisions is the best way forward. The same principle should apply to teacher
training because it suffered in the past from rigid central planning that demoralised teachers, he said. Teerakiat announced a new voucher system earlier this month that enables universities and colleges to offer their own courses, and gives prospective teachers freedom to choose areas they want to be trained in. He’s also asked his department to come up with a plan to establish a new Ministry of Higher Education. “The website for teacher training, usually there is only one or two hits, if you are lucky,” he said. “Yesterday alone: 28.8 million hits. It’s just amazing to see when you use the market system, when you empower them, when you abolish the central planning, use the bottom up approach, things work phenomenally. It has never happened in Thailand.”
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Mindfulness in educational leadership
ducational leaders are faced with daily complex problems that do not have simple answers and coping with the demands of students, parents and teachers is sometimes stressful. Despite these challenges, leaders can learn to be successful and promote student growth in a nurturing school community through implementing a mindfulness initiative across the school. At the American School of Bangkok (ASB), mindfulness is deeply embedded within the school’s philosophy and the results have been far reaching and profound. Administrators who had been feeling tired, anxious, and overworked from endless demands have found a happy and healthy path through practicing skilful mindful leadership. The goal of mindful leadership at ASB is to develop a nonjudgmental focus that embraces compassion, clarity and an understanding of service to others. Through practicing mindful breathing and relaxation, ASB leaders reduce stress levels and develop a sense of internal wellbeing. This has enabled them to reduce absenteeism, significantly increase job satisfaction and improve staff relationships. By improving themselves through mindful practice, school leaders have been able to focus the majority of their attention on the academic, behavioural, mindful development of ASB students. There is extensive neurological and educational research that shows mindfulness helps students improve their behaviour, emotional balance, and academics. Mindfulness
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has become a proven tool for helping students become the next generation of successful leaders in the global community. Although mindfulness can be interpreted by each individual differently, it can be summed up on a very basic level as “skilful attention”, or simply paying attention to what is happening in the moment. By being engaged with one’s thoughts, feelings and body, and individual becomes “consciously conscience”. ASB’s goal of seeing graduates who are well-rounded individuals with empathy, resilience, and excellent life skills was set by all stakeholders. As a result, graduates who are prepared for college with with sound academic knowledge, are able to enter the world with an invigorating and insightful view of the world around them. ASB has found the best tool in mindful leadership is to simply listen to what students and parents have to say. Paying attention to their needs and delivering on what they want is always a priority. So where parents rely on the school for answers to help their child’s behaviour and academics improve, the leadership knows the appropriate steps to take. ASB never stops believing in its children and whether a child blossoms early or is in need of more time to fulfil their potential, mindfulness is the key to ASB’s patience and understanding.
One of the hallmarks of ASB’s leadership is that all members are are comfortable with each other as a team. It takes time to build a trust, and before respect is given, members have to show their commitment to one another and ASB’s mindful cause. The team proudly supports one another in both good and difficult times, and understands each other as individuals. As teachers, staff, and students see the unity of the team leadership, it introduces new ideas and tightens working relationships to strengthen the school’s community. As a result, ASB’s employees are happy and proud to come to work everyday. Leaders of course know the main goal of education is high academic achievement. However our leaders also know the practical benefits of mindfulness and how that helps our students increase in these areas by increasing their own ability to concentrate deeper and for longer periods of time. To maintain a calm mind when taking an examination and other possible stressful situations. Learning to “respond instead of react” when talking to peers and other people by taking a small pause between stimuli and their response. With heightened academic pressure for students of all ages, increased social media distractions and the peer pressure students feel. Children today are faced with an unprecedented amount of stress and anxiety. Many surveys today, of children of all school ages, show students are dealing with extreme fatigue, negative emotions and stress up to 75% of the time.
Incorporating mindfulness into education has been linked to improving academic achievements, increased social and emotional learning as well our helping students become more compassionate and empathetic towards others. Mindfulness also strengthens some underlying development processes, increases neural activity and brain functions in areas such as focus, concentration, resilience, and self-soothing - that will help kids in the long run.” For every action there is a reaction, however, learning to take a short pause, something as simple as a deep breath, can help make that reaction be something that comes from an empathetic and compassionate point of view. In conclusion, mindfulness in leadership is never easy to do. One has to combat his or her emotions and to be the best self most of the time. You have to learn to conquer fear and be calm during crisis management. Know how to respond with composure while the other party may well be screaming. If there was one thing that made us stronger, it is the fact that our leading staff members have seen most scenarios one might encounter as a leader in education and by studying, practicing and applying mindfulness in their daily lives they are equipped to to face each day with a positive, compassionate and empathetic perspective.
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Education many displays at the exhibition as well as in the “science scavenger hunt”.
The ‘Arts in Education’ Exhibition and Concert
There will be illusionary art, 3D art, optical illusions and explanations of why our brains see and interpret these images as they do and how our eyes can play tricks on us. In the science displays there will be many fun and interactive exhibits that have a “Wow, that’s cool” factor that can be created at home such as being able to bend water and shape matter into patterns with sound waves and simple static electricity. How to make things move without touching them using magnets and again static electricity. By showing our students models of human’s DNA double helix we will explain how if we uncoiled the average adults DNA strands there would be
The American School of Bangkok in partnership with Yamaha Musical Instruments and Yamaha Music School are producing Thailand’s first “Arts in Education Exhibition and Concert” on April 21-22 at the Yamaha Music Hall in the prestigious Dr Thaworn Phornprapha Auditorium. The event’s premise is to show that studying the arts helps increase academic achievements in a fun filled ‘edutainment’ atmosphere the whole family will enjoy.
n addition to the concert there will be an exhibition showing many interactive science, mindfulness, educational and art displays as well as some of the latest medical and scientific proof to help people understand the new discoveries about the value of studying the arts has on academic achievements and young developing minds.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Father Joe’s Mercy Centre which is a charitable organisation that has transformed the lives of over 50,000 Thai children
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in need. The Mercy Centre has five orphanages, a hospice, a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS, a 400 pupil kindergarten, a community meeting place and a serene haven that includes a playground and garden in the heart of Klong Toey’s poorest and most needy area. Through our charitable donation we hope to be able to raise up to one million baht plus funding a year long programme aiming to increase English proficiency for approximately one thousand students through the Mercy Centre’s school and outreach programmes. The event will be in two parts, an exhibition featuring interactive art, science, mindfulness, educational and sports displays followed by a concert featuring ASB students and Yamaha artists. Show times will be at 2pm and 5pm and families are encouraged to arrive early to participate with the
approximately 67 billion miles of our genetic codes, enough to circle the entire galaxy twice! How we share 80% of the same DNA as a cow, 61% the same as a fruit fly and 50% the same as banana… yes you are part of all of these other living things and they are part of you. There will be many exciting and interactive displays such as these to help further excite students about learning science from the seen to the unseen. We will have our robotics department showing some of its latest creations that have our students designing, building and programming some quite complex assignments which of course will be some of the most sought after skills for students to have and learn about. Jack Ma of Alibaba just stated at the World Economic Forum this year that by the year 2030 robots will take away over 800 million jobs
better than other students as it was proven that there was a much greater development in ‘spatial temporal reasoning” and “language analytical reasoning”. Some have named this “The Mozart Effect”. The students and children will be given a “science scavenger hunt” card that must be completed by interacting with all the displays and by doing so will about 500 thirty years ago. Our brains receive a special gift bag at the end of the event. Teaching children, without simply need a break and the skills one learns through mindfulness can greatly them even realising, the importance of completing task and assignments help in this area, as well as creating In the mindfulness areas we will to receive a special reward in addition more empathetic and compassionate be able to show real time neural to stimulating their young minds in well rounded humans beings. activity of participants brains when ways that may not happen sitting only concentrating on different subjects in a classroom learning from a book. and how in sports mindfulness, which We will display some of the latest Interactive experiential learning is a medical and scientific research is referred to as “getting in the zone”, new method being used today in the showing how studying the arts, help increase proficiency in the tasks most progressive schools and equips especially music, increases brain at hand. In mathematics and sports the students with the most needed structure and neural activity we will show the complex formulas skills for the future such as creative which can help increase academic that are performed behind the thinking, problem solving, use of achievement and yields the best scenes in athletes minds such as the imagination as well as team work. result in young developing minds. many factors that must be solved in something as simple as shooting a free For example it has been proven time The concert itself will be a high impact and time again that studying music throw in basketball and how playing exciting event on its own, filled with helps people increase their ability sports increases teamwork which of musical skits, orchestral music, singing, to learn a second language, can course helps in almost every business dancing, a fun filled segment named help with cognition and math skills situation later in life. We will also “The Masked Teacher” which will be along with many other areas of brain show how using mindfulness can be beneficial in keeping a healthy mind in development. In fact it is a well known a talent contest showing our teachers secret talents, as well as some of today’s world of nonstop bombardment fact Einstein used to play his violin or piano when stuck on a math problem. Yamaha’s most talented virtuoso of information due to the explosion of performers all in a professional social media as most studies show that By concentrating on the problem at hand which uses more of the left brain presentation created and produced by we are normally exposed to between the ASB staff members and students. functions and concentrate on the 5,000 -10,000 ads per day, up from This will not be your typical school music which uses more right brain musical and ensures to leave the functions, he was able to strengthen audience wanting more as well the communications between his two as showing how many different hemisphere’s and increase his neural departments and disciplines need to be activity and overall brainpower. One at their best and all come together as a 2012 study showed that by listening whole to make the best show possible. to music during a math test students Again there is an underlying lesson improved their performance by up here as in any successful business the to 40%. By studying music students same factors must take place. also learn patience which helps with increased ability to concentrate Please come and enjoy a few hours of better and for longer periods of time, family fun that is sure to please a wide such as in doing schoolwork and range of interest and ages. any difficult task. A study published in the respected journal “Nature” For more information or to participate showed that first grade students studying music’s rhythms, pitches and as a sponsor please contact: Matthew Della Polla at email@example.com. other elements scored significantly from humans as the robots can simply perform the task better and we need to fundamentally address this in our education systems to prepare the upcoming graduates to be able to work in a world where robots are doing more and more jobs that humans once used to do. The field of robotics is growing exponentially and luckily for our students Thailand is becoming one of the forefront countries in Asia developing in this area.
Arts in Education Exhibition and Concert
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Education over 9 years and have noticed that many of my students lack these skills at the beginning of their freshman year, most often those who do possess these skills have gained them as result of their own personal interest and efforts. I started to wonder how my freshman literacy and production teaching methods could translate to a much younger age group. Through the Denotative Image Making process I decided to explore the learning and understanding of a younger demographic. Over the years I have developed a positive relationship with my son’s school and after much discussion was given permission from the educators and parents to run a class on the Denotative Image Making Process. I am not a new face to these students as I have volunteered to teach a subject with them before. John Dewey, a philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer developed a theory back in 1933 called the Developmental Spiral. This is where experience, reflection, conceptualisation, and
Creative learning makes creative thinkers Children and young adults are living in a world where they are expected to work smoothly in a multi-disciplined work environment. by Thomas Groves, M.A., PGCEi
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igital media integration to everyday life has reached a level where doctors, researchers, teachers, accountants and tradespersons etc. are expected to be creators, visual and media literate, on top of their specialised discipline. The issue is that, in most cases, media literacy is left for higher education while creative project-based learning tends to stop after early years of education. Despite the efforts made in primary and secondary education to include such topics in their curriculum it is often viewed as a subject section to be taught during a specific timeframe and until completion of that specific unit it is not seen as a subject just as important as first language courses, Geography, Science, Maths etc. As it becomes easier to create ‘fake news’,
with improving access and media users statistically getting younger it is extremely important to become media literate. Media literacy will allow students to deconstruct the message they receive and understand the specific medium used. The image making process plays an important role in media literacy education. The students’ ability to deconstruct an image can only start once they understand how that image was built. The Image Making Process is the theory of cognitive decisions made to help the viewer understand the image. This includes graphic shapes (circles, squares, triangles), colour and volume, visual contrast (simple vs complex shapes, shallow vs deep) and much more. I have been a university lecturer for
experimentation are in a constant cycle of the students development. Keeping this theory in mind I wanted to make an engaging interactive lesson for students to actively participate and experience during the teaching session. This would be followed by students creating their own projects showcasing their level of understanding. For research purposes I collected data, student interviews, addressed strengths and weaknesses of the process, analysed and examined the results to improve future teaching techniques. This research followed strict IRB regulations and will not be shared in this piece. Understanding? The longer you teach and study education the more the idea of ‘understanding’ changes. What does it mean when a student understands? Such a simple concept carries different definitions amongst teachers and students alike. In some cases, the definition can label a student for their academic career and cause more harm than good. We often confuse intelligence and understanding as being the same. Howard Gardner, a psychologist, defined intelligence as the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings. Carol Dweck, a developmental psychologist, developed a theory of fixed and growth mindsets based on the students’ ability, motivation and capability to expand their ‘intelligence’. This is where students are often labelled and can cause developmental issues. My personal definition of ‘understanding’ is that the student has the ability to apply their learning process, knowledge and skills into a form on their own with the ability to share this understanding with others. Similar to the old saying that you only really understand a language when you tell a joke and laugh. Students, of all ages, will often disengage from a task,
denotative image making for example, if they do not categorise themselves as visual learners or ‘artists’. I often hear comments like ‘I cannot draw’ or ‘I do not know what to do with the paintbrush’ even before the students attempts to demonstrate their level of understanding. In every single case, after encouraging students to try, I receive a comment similar to ‘I didn’t know I could do that’. The lesson As the grade 7 students walked into their classroom to find the desks covered in recycled paper, crayons, pencils, paint, brushes and an assortment of art tools. I announced my plans “Today we will explore the denotative image making process” which drew blank faces amongst the students. None of them knew what I was talking about or why it was important but were excited that there was paint on the table. I explained that today’s lesson would not have a PowerPoint, handouts or require students to take any notes. I would require them only to follow along with me and later create their own project. This brought a look a relief on some and pure panic for others. Lev Vygotsky introduced a concept know as the Zone of Proximal Development. This refers to what the learner can do with help and what they can not do. I understood that using the art tools would be with in their Zone of
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Proximal Development but I was more interested in the understanding of the process in order to get the exact same image, using the same method, more than once. During the lesson I explained terms such as ‘generation’, ‘iteration’ and ‘media’. Generation being the number of images you make using a specific method. For example, you press an eraser onto a stamp pad and press that eraser onto a piece of paper, you do not place it back on the ink pad, multiple times. You would than label each mark with a number representing the generation of the image. These labels help the image maker know how to achieve a consistent look even with long periods between image making. Iteration is the practice of using the same method multiple times to ensure the look is consistent. While media refers to the tools and display formats used to showcase their images. The object that students were making at this stage was controlled. As a collective we all had selected the same object which allowed the learners to experience and reflect on the method rather than the object. Introducing new methods allowed time for conceptualisation and experimentation. Increasing the learners experience. After the ‘teaching’ part of the lesson I asked the students to put their
examples in a pile beside them, change the recycled paper with some new fresh paper, clean their work stations and to imagine an object that they can find in their house and create 5 final unique pieces of that exact same object. The buzz of excitement through the class meant that my learners were engaged in the activity. At the start I had some students nervous about the image making process but at this point I had 100% engagement as students started to experiment and develop methods that made sense to them. As students began to create I heard comments “I wonder how to do”, “if I try this” or “what happens when” which is an important part of experimentation and their development of understanding. What I found I have to take into consideration that my lesson with these students was limited and a fixed time and does not constitute a large sample to provide
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an exact analysis and result but it did help me look at the learning and understanding process. I found that the success output positively reflected the developmental spiral. Through the cycle of experience, reflection, conceptualisation and experimentation students became more confident and creative. Students were able to solve problems of how to select their household object and to make the image in their mind, where with the controlled lesson faced difficulties in conceptualising the object. When I asked selected students to recreate one of their final 5 images and explain the method, they were able to do this. For those that had slight difficulty they were able to look at their generation sheet to remember the exact method. Ideally I would return for more classes and ask all students to recreate a piece of work. I would further develop topics such as connotative image making, typography, digital art etc. This would be followed by asking students to deconstruct media made by others. facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 33
“Teachers and students spend hours every day with each other. It can be difficult to keep an energetic feeling in the classroom and maintain learning - adding creative activities can deepen the learning process and understanding of a topic.” Teachers and students spend hours every day with each other. It can be difficult to keep an energetic feeling in the classroom and maintain learning. Adding creative activities can deepen the learning process and understanding of a topic. It is important however to make sure that these creative activities are challenging, create opportunities and is enriching to the topic. It serves no one, student or teacher alike, to create a lesson for the sole purpose of fun. Developing a creative lesson can be challenging so it is important to keep a few steps in mind. It is important to make creativity a regular theme in the learning practice. The more a student can participate in the cycle of experience, reflection, conceptualisation and experimentation the more their Zone of Proximal Development increases. It is important to focus on your students’ creativity. Not all students’ follow the same creative process but beautiful things arise when these learners can combine their unique skills. Make sure that as a teacher you collect feedback, add variation and develop meaning in your activities. The goal is to develop understanding, create new zones of challenge and expand awareness of problem solving. Avoid the same content and meaningless ‘fun’ projects. The preparation will be difficult but the results will be well worth it. A safe classroom filled with support is a classroom students are willing to take a risk in and challenge new 34 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
concepts. If there is a connection between teacher and students a sense of security, classroom culture and cultural awareness is established. Share, share and share some more! It is amazing to see how different works, media, and genres can inspire students and teachers. Keeping examples for learners can help motivate and develop new creative thinking methods. These methods are not only applicable for primary and secondary education they also hold true for higher education. I am in a state of constant curriculum development for my courses on how best to teach a subject. My focus is not only on the test and grades in my courses but also on my student’s understanding of the subjects. Can they creatively solve the problems they are faced with? I teach
courses which classically fall under the ‘creative arts’ department but I also lecture theory courses. I make sure that both classes contain just as much creativity to benefit the learners. This keeps my courses fresh and allows my students to develop their Zone of Proximal Development. We need learners to think outside of the box in today’s fast paced world and the only way we will be able to do this is by developing creative media literate learners. This article in no way should be seen as discounting the work of all of the amazing teachers out there who spend thousands of hours in the classroom and outside to develop amazing classes for their students. My goal is merely to encourage a thought process on how, or even should, creativity and media literacy be integrated into more classrooms. 50 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
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From ‘third culture kid’ to parent of ‘cross cultural kids’ A third culture kid has grown up and now muses on what it will be like to parent her ‘cross cultural kids’ by Ema Naito-Bhakdi
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iscovering that I was a TCK or Third Culture Kid, was a breakthrough moment for me. Having grown up shuttling between two countries, I never quite felt like I ‘fit’ any one nationality. But with the word TCK, I finally felt I had a name and a community to which I could claim legitimate citizenship. For those of you who need a refresher, the term ‘Third Culture Kid’ was originally coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem in the 1950s, and is now typically used to define: [A] person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years
outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. (Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. 1999, 2001, 2009. — And let me just say that If you’re an expat parent, you need to read this book. If I could, I’d be handing out copies to the unsuspecting on the streets of Bangkok!) As described by Pollock and Van Reken, TCKs commonly show characteristics such as an expanded worldview, adaptability, language and cross-cultural skills. On the not-so-positive side, we also
tend to exhibit restlessness and rootlessness, and can suffer from confused loyalties and a lack of a true cultural balance. With my own experience, it was particularly traumatic to be an outsider after moving for the third time, just as I was entering ‘teenagehood’. Adolescence is challenging enough for anyone, as we all struggle to define who we are and where we fit in. Having additionally to deal with a new set of cultural practices and values and to establish new relationships was, to put it mildly, bewildering. Now, 30 years after my TCK adolescence, I find
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myself in Thailand with children of my own. They aren’t quite ‘TCKs’: they were born and bred in Thailand and (at least up to now) have never lived anywhere else; neither parent is culturally or linguistically Thai but we’re not short-term expats either. The kids speak fluent Thai, attend Japanese school where they are taught to be ‘Japanese’, and are also learning their father’s language. They are what Pollock & Van Reken would call ‘cross cultural kids’ (CCK) — “kids who grow up among many cultural environments for any reason.” It’s a broad definition including TCKs, children of immigrants, minorities, multiracial families, multicultural families, international adoptees, or even children who switch school environments (e.g. public school to private boarding school). I take courage from Pollock and Van Reken’s perspective that there’s much that can be learned from the TCK experience and applied to CCKs. One key lesson is that, in the midst of change and fluidity in these children’s lives, the family unit needs to be their ‘rock’, a secure home base. Their advice: make your kids feel that they are valued by actively listening to them. Comfort them, especially when they may be grieving from moves or loss of friends, etc. - acknowledge their pain, let them know it’s perfectly normal, and give them the space to grieve. Keep family relationships solid, including maintaining ties with extended family. Reserve regular family time, create
“I take courage from Pollock and Van Reken’s perspective that there’s much that can be learned from the TCK experience and applied to CCKs.” your own family traditions. Remember that the parents’ home countries are still foreign for your kids, and ‘reentry’ to those countries will not necessarily be easy for them.
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My favourite advice from Pollock and Van Reken is: “Unpack your bags and plant your trees”. Become part of a community, and live the present experience to the fullest, as if you were going to be here forever. That way, your children (and you too!) will always have ‘trees’ to come back to when they are older. I wonder what my children’s journey will be like. I hope that they will come to a place where they feel proud of their unique experience, that this very cross-cultural-ness will become a key pillar of their self-identity. And I very much look forward to see who they will become.
Ema Naito-Bhakdi worked in international development, was editor of BAMBI News, and is now a freelance editor www.theclarityeditor.com She’s a stay-sometimesat-home mom to three kids, sings in choirs and as a soloist, and blogs at www.crossculturalfamily. com and in Japanese at emanate28jpn.blogspot. com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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An incredible journey: interview with Julian Thomas Julian Thomas, the eternally youthful 14th Master of Wellington College Berkshire, UK, recently visited Bangkok for the official launch of Wellington College Bangkok and to participate in a WellingTEN Talk 2018, hosted by Wellington College Bangkok at C-asean Auditorium on 6 March 2018, sharing his thoughts of what is vital with the future of education. Jack Ruenprapan from Wellington College Bangkok had a chance to sit down with him to discover the incredibly unique path Julian has taken, punctuated by adventures and discovered that have tested the limits of body, mind and spirit. Jack Ruenprapan: We understand that in 2014, you made an unassisted trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, a treacherous expedition that only around 300 people have managed to complete since Norwegian explorer Roald Edmunsen managed to complete the journey on 14 December 1911. How long did that take? Julian Thomas: That’s right. It’s an experience that, looking back on it, always makes me smile. The overall 40 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
journey took around two months to reach the South Pole.
something I was desperate to do, to the point of obsession.
JR: How did you prepare for such a journey? JT: For two years, I had been preparing for the physical aspect of it, getting myself ready to pull a sled weighing over 90 kilograms. But what I discovered was that the real tough thing on an expedition like this was the mental aspect. The emotions are very up and down, dealing with a sense of hopelessness and seeing nothing but white all around you. Looking at the yellow dots on our satellite navigation, and seeing, after 11 hours of dragging this sled, that it hasn’t appeared to move from the previous day.
JR: There was a concurrent British expedition led by Captain Robert Scott, which managed to reach the South Pole but the team perished on the return journey. JT: Yes, it’s funny you mention Captain Scott, as he was a major inspiration for my trip. I had one those Ladybird Adventure books as a nine year old, and it was “Captain Scott’s Adventures in Antarctica” and from then on, I always wanted to go there. So just being in Antarctica there was a real sense of connection with him and his team, as well as the other great Edwardian explorers like Shackleton. But I would never, even remotely, put myself up against those incredible people, who did it with terrible equipment, it was uncharted territory, and if something when wrong there was no rescue plane to call. They were true heroes.
JR: So did you and your team have moments where you were saying to yourselves, “This is too much. We should think about heading back.” JT: Actually, we started out as a team of five, but we finished as a team of four. Don’t worry, we didn’t eat him! There was a medical evacuation, when the plane arrived to take one of our party away, they asked “Anyone else?” And as mentally and physically exhausting as it was, there was only one answer. It was
JR: And you went from the extreme cold to extreme heat with a later adventure, running in the Marathon des Sable, covering over 270 kilometres, the equivalent of six marathons over six days, back to back, in the Sahara Desert. What were you thinking there?
JT: Lots of people say, “What were you thinking?” and I suppose it’s being a bit crazy; I love pushing myself, setting myself challenges. Having tested myself in the cold, and wanted to see if I could do it in extreme heat. There is this thing called The Hundred Club, which, once I heard about it, I couldn’t shake it. It’s where if you do an expedition where there is a difference of 100 degrees between the two extremes, then you qualify. So with minus 50 degrees in Antarctica and over 50 degrees Celsius in the Sahara, I got to join the Hundred Club. JR: And these were not just for personal glory, but also for good causes? JT: Yes, for the Marathon des Sables, we raised money for building a school in Africa and the Antarctica expedition raised money for Bliss the charity for premature babies. JR: Any more mountains to climb, literally or figuratively? JT: Well, Everest is still there, that would be wonderful someday. It’s always been an ambition of mine. But in three weeks I begin my skydiving training to become a licensed skydiver. The whole idea of standing at the edge of airplane getting ready to jump out absolutely terrifies me to the core, which is what makes it so much fun. I know something like this is going to take me to the limits of what I think I can do. JR: I understand your journey to becoming an educator was not as straightforward as most, having started out in IT in the business and finance world. What was that Eureka moment for you? JT: Yes, there was a time I was working in IT in the City of London, and I was convinced that was going to be my career from then on, but I remember I was about five years into my career in the City, working with BP, and I was going up the escalator at Liverpool Station and thinking about the day ahead, and I was dreading it.
I knew I would be spending most of the day looking at the clock waiting for the time to go. On that escalator ride, I had a moment of realisation that I couldn’t do this for the rest of my life. I needed to do something that had meaning to me, that mattered to me, that got me out of bed every day and inspired me, because I wasn’t inspired by what I was doing. I decided I wanted to be a teacher. By the end of that day, I had contacted universities sign up for my PGCE teacher training qualifications, as first step to becoming a teacher. I’m so glad I did, because I know it sounds sugary, but now I wake up every day looking forward to the day ahead, and I know every day is going to offer something different. I still watch the clock, but it’s hoping that it will slow down because I have so much I still want to accomplish.
JR: At Wellington College do you have any ambitions for the school to do something along the lines of these adventures and challenges? JT: Well, I think by doing things like this you learn a lot and you get incredibly inspired, but what I really, really want to do with Wellington is for every child to find the thing that makes them tick, and for me it’s these kinds of extreme challenges, but every single child has the potential to become inspired by the thing they really enjoy doing. I believe children who are really disengaged with school, it’s because they haven’t found that thing they love to do most. I’m so glad I had that epiphany of what I wanted to do on that elevator ride, which led me to Wellington, and now here to Bangkok to share my experiences. What an amazing journey it has been.
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Visiting schools on the islands off Satun province Help Thai schools now - native English speakers wanted to teach phonetics and shadow Thai English teachers all over Thailand! by Nick Argles
was recently invited by M L Pariyada Diskul, Secretary to the Ministry of Education to join a delegation of senior officials from the ministry to the southern province of Satun. The delegation was led by the Deputy Minister of Education Dr Sophon Narathorn, Dr Boonrux Yodpheth Secretary General of Basic Education Commission, Khun Piyabutr Cholvijarn and Khun Ekachai chairman and board member of OPEC and of course Mom Luang Pariyada. They were visiting 12 schools on 9 islands off the coast over a period of 3 days and I was lucky enough to be an observer and guest to see the schools, meet the students and their teachers, and learn from the education experts. The delegation meanwhile were conducting a survey on the schools deciding what needed to be done structurally, financially - in terms of grants and the distribution of funds and how they could make things easier for the directors, headteachers and teachers. The children in the 12 schools were a pure delight and impeccably behaved, though excited and honoured to have such important guests come to visit their institution. In most cases they formed a guard of honour and blessed their visitors with traditional Muslim greetings reserved for special guests. They cooked for us, served lunch and refreshments for us, 44 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
sang and danced for us and at one school were even invited to request what they thought was needed to make their education and lives more fulfilling and worthwhile. Their wishes were quite humble and reasonable as they asked for simple things. It was humbling yet very moving for me, ‘a farang’ to see these lovely children with so little, on the islands of their birth, looking so happy to be recognised and then to receive a rucksack, coloured pencils and a colouring book courtesy of Kubota the tractor manufacturer in Thailand. They were all so grateful and proud and sat still, often for well over an hour, whilst their visitors were presented to by the schools administrators. You could see that they were in awe of their visitors and on their best behaviour for their important guests. The accompanying photographers and press pack eagerly snapped away at every opportunity and it made me realise how difficult it must be to be in the public eye every day of your life. The smallest school on the islands Buloan Don School had as little as 40 children, the largest up to 1500 on the mainland, and their visitors were met at the piers and often at the beach with a greeting party of the islanders and the local officials.
rest. One evening we returned quite late as darkness took over, and to further the growing concern on the half open boat without GPS, a storm met us reducing visibility to less than 40 metres. The boat behind us obviously lost sight of us and went off at a tangent so we had to slow down and signal with a torchlight to bring it back on track. Cold and wet but grateful to be back on dry land the city landlubbers presented a fine sight - many not eating much that night! Each morning we breakfasted at 6am and were on the way in a fleet of minivans to the next pier or school. I was worn out by the time we arrived back in Bangkok at 7.30pm on the Friday evening. Not made better by the fact that I then had to wait over 2 hours at Don Muaeng airport for a taxi! I waited longer for a taxi than the flight of one hour twenty five minutes from Hat Yai to Bangkok. Come on AOT sort your life out please. For a country that depends on inbound tourism for nearly 20% of its GDP you have to get better and quickly because today’s traveller will just not put up with it. On one day between the islands one of the 3 boats was grounded on a sandbank so the Thai Royal Navy SARS here
to protect and guard their important visitors had to get into the water and push the boat clear. These schools badly need native English speakers to go and shadow the Thai English teachers to help teach the students phonetics and show how to pronounce the English language. When I was alone with the rows of children I recited the days of the week and months of the year. They eagerly recited them after me. They can read and write English from a book but lack the confidence to approach a ‘farang’ and engage in conversation but it is so essential for these kids on the islands as they now have an opportunity to serve the tourist trade and need to develop customer relationship skills. Khun Pariyada asked me if I could help find interns, teachers or even just volunteers to visit the islands and in return for bed and board help teach the children pronunciation and give them the confidence to engage in conversation in English. I said that I would try and so I have reached out to a number of friends, media owners and presenters and we are all trying to promote a campaign in Thailand to learn English now so if you know anyone that has just graduated, or finished teacher training, or is willing to give a month, 3 months or a year of their life to help teach Thais to speak the English language please email firstname.lastname@example.org www.englishforthais.org
Each evening we were taken back to Satun and our hotel for the 4 night 3 day trip. The officials had set a full itinerary with at least 3 schools each day so there was no time to facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 45
Educating Thailand the long and winding road
ducation in Thailand is provided mainly by the Thai government through the Ministry of Education from pre-school to senior high school. A free basic education of 12 years is guaranteed by the constitution, and a minimum of 9 years’ school attendance is mandatory. Unfortunately Thailand does not score highly on the worldwide educational achievement tables. The debate about educating its children goes on and on in Thailand. The problem is not about the money spent on the education sector, as the government allocates about 20% of its annual budget towards education – the largest portion of any item in the annual budget. One of the main problems is that the road to education reforms in Thailand has long been a rough one, not helped by the fact that the country has had no fewer than 21 different education ministers over the past 18 years, and that the huge spending has not translated into improved learning.
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The students of Thailand still score below global averages, including those of their neighbouring countries, and are lagging behind in key subjects such as maths, science, and English. In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) score results in 2016, Thailand is ranked 55th out of 72 countries in the overall results. For maths and science, Thailand is ranked 54th, and it is 57th for English language skills. These PISA scores are taken from the country as a whole and the results indicate serious disparities between students in the urban schools and those from rural areas. It has been suggested that the Education Ministry needs to try and narrow this gap, not just to climb international rankings, in their next round of educational reform strategies. This is not to say that Thai students, per se, are not good at studying. Those from the more well-off families, who are able to attend Thailand’s excellent international schools have proven this,
The students of Thailand still score below global averages, including those of their neighbouring countries, and are lagging behind in key subjects such as maths, science, and English.
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as many of them go on to study in Oxbridge universities in the UK, or Ivy League institutions in the US, and do well there. But this fact does not help the average student, nor does it lead to an improvement in the national PISA scores. However, there is a further option in Thailand, which is known as Ekachon schools (private education), and these independent schools contribute significantly to the general education infrastructure. These institutions bridge the gap between state education and the expensive international schools (most of which come from the UK or the US). I first became aware of Ekachon schools when my daughter, as a young schoolgirl, expressed an interest to learn the piano, and went to have private tuition every Saturday morning at Piyajit Vithaya School on Phatanakarn Road, Bangkok. It was opened in 1993 as a kindergarten school, and was then further developed by a group of Thai investors who wanted to do something to help improve educational standards, in 1996. The school now comprises about 650 students, and about 40 experienced and well-qualified teaching staff. The students study from Kindergarten Grade 1, all the way up to Prathom 6 (age 12). This school, as are many other Ekachon schools, is not prohibitively expensive, but the standard of education there is high, and has resulted in Piyajit’s Prathom 6 students consistently scoring well above the national average in Thailand’s ‘O’ Net national examinations. Piyajit is presented with Gold Medals every year for its achievements, and is one of the top private schools in Bangkok, although the annual fees at this and other Ekachon schools are far removed from those charged by the international schools. There is a good English programme at Piyajit, and one of the investors, Khun Sompong Assaratkul also teaches mathematics. Khun Sompong is an ex-advisor to 48 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
the executives in charge of the BTS (skytrain) infrastructure project, and he is passionate about passing on his love of mathematics to his students, as he believes that if this core skill is developed well within them, then the educational development of a students’ other skills will naturally flourish because of it. The students at Piyajit and other Ekachon schools that go on to study at some of Bangkok’s best high schools, and then universities, seems to warrant further investigation by the government into how the teaching at these schools is so successful for the educational development of their students. In the world of the new millennium English language skills are ever more important. It is the world’s international language of choice, and M L Pariyada Diskul, Secretary to the Ministry of Education knows this well. She wants to reach out to those expats and native speakers who live in Thailand, and who have come to love the country. She is asking for help to establish a network of native English speakers all across Thailand to help Thai people develop their English conversational skills. If native English speakers could donate a few hours of their week to shadow Thai English teachers in classrooms across the country, or in hospitals, offices and the like this would do a lot to help, she
believes. If anyone reading this article would like to help, and gain the satisfaction of knowing that you have played a small part in improving the English skills of the country you love and live in, please email this address for further information: email@example.com
Robin Westley Martin has been working as a journalist in Thailand and Southeast Asia for nearly 30 years. He first worked as News Editor for Business in Thailand magazine, before moving on to edit and write for the Thai Airways domestic inflight magazine, and also Hotel & Travel. He continues to work in Thailand and Southeast Asia as a freelance writer for several magazines, covering a wide range of genres. firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: Robin Westley Martin Line: robinsiam555
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Find out more – www.regents-pattaya.co.th / Follow us on facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 49
Are you saving for your children’s university or are they paying the fees? by William Frisby
re you an expat living in Phuket that has a young family, or maybe you are in the planning stages? If you have children, you may already be paying for tuition fees at a local international school, unless you are lucky enough to be on an expat contract with everything included by your employer. Whatever the case may be, when your youngsters are old enough to go to university, there isn’t going to be anyone to help you or your children foot the bills unless you come from a wealthy background.
University, for many people, is seen as the best time of your life. Free from the clutches of their parents, teenagers are let loose to take the first few steps into adulthood. For the fortunate ones, this story remains true to this day. But for the rest, the harsh reality of adulthood comes crashing down on them four years later when they begin to realise that the freedom that an education has given them is coupled with a crippling sense of debt which can hang over them for a very long time. It now appears that achieving the relevant grades is no longer the main worry as it has now been replaced with the burden of the cost. “For profit higher education is today a booming industry, feeding on the student loans handed out to the desperate.” Thomas Frank As a parent, I naturally want the best education for my child, as all parents do. But after many years of helping my clients save for their children’s education, I have had to readjust my point of view. Currently, my thinking is “what is the best education that I can provide for them within my means, without landing my child or myself in a mountain of debt”. This all sounds a bit dystopian, but the cold light of day is now telling us that university costs are rising at an astronomical rate and nothing suggest it’s going to cool down at any point in the near future. The US is widely perceived as the most expensive place in the world to send your offspring for a university education, and rightly so. All ten spots of the top ten most expensive universities in the world are occupied by US institutions with Sarah Lawrence College in New York coming out on top with a staggering annual tuition fee of $61,236. It didn’t always use to be this way. Back in 1971, the fee for going to Harvard was only $200, and this fee hadn’t 50 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
been raised since 1949. Under the leadership of John T Dunlop, in the fall of this year, he increased fees from $200 - $2,600, which is an incredible jump by any stretch of the imagination. A leap of more than 17 times, which is seen by many as the start of the global escalation of student fees. If he had have let this figure rise with inflation then the current cost today would be $15,189, whereas Harvard’s current tuition fees are $45,278. America is not the only place that has seen these kinds of jumps in cost. From 2002 to 2012 Australia saw a rise in prices of 166%, which blunted Australia’s education advantage as they saw new overseas competition at more attractive prices. Bob Birrell, from Monash University, said that Australia had seen a large influx of students from China and India which had resulted in the costs being pushed up.
Education I think most of us will probably sit in the latter two options of this puzzle, as do I.
How and where do I save for this? The answer to this question depends on your timeframe, as it always does with the type of investment that you need to take up to achieve your goals. If you are fortunate enough to have a horizon of over five years and you do not have a lot of starting capital, then the simplest way would be to save on a regular basis into some form of structured savings account. Savings accounts collect money from your account every month which removes the need to have the discipline to save yourself. Once the money has been collected, then your cash is invested into a broad range of mutual funds which have exposure to the financial markets. The goal here is to get your savings to work for you so that the growth of your investment can foot a large part of the bill. If we take the UK as an example, you will need approximately $100,000 to fund your child through a three-year university degree. (These figures have purposely been calculated in dollars for the simple use of most people)
$345 at 6% for 15 years - Amount invested $62,100 Amount at maturity $100,000 $610 at 6% for 10 years - Amount invested $73,200 Amount at maturity $100,000 $1435 at 6% for 5 years - Amount invested $86,100 Amount at maturity $100,000. Another option would be investing a lump of money at the outset and then leaving this lump of money to grow until your child is ready to attend university. $41,000 at 6% over 15 years - Amount at maturity $100,000 $55,000 at 6% over 10 years - Amount at maturity $100,000 $75,000 at 6% over 5 years - Amount at maturity $100,000 For anything less than a five year timeframe, then I would advise that you just put the money in the bank. You will naturally only receive 1-3% growth, which in reality is only securing your purchasing power by keeping up with inflation, but it’s probably the best way to save for the short term. If you would like any more information on how savings plans work then email email@example.com
New Zealand has also seen the rise that other countries are benefitting from and have been quick to move on this. As of the end of 2015, New Zealand’s education had become their fifth biggest export with a revenue of over NZ $3 billion. The UK is also one of the hotspots for price hikes, and currently, education and living costs are roughly £25,000 annually. However, you can double this cost for a Medical Bachelor. Germany on the other hand still has free tuition fees for its domestic and international students. Unfortunately for prospective parents, this does not look like it is set to continue after the south west state of Baden-Wurttemberg reintroduced fees in December of 2016. Living costs are estimated at around 1,000 Euros per month in Germany, including spending money, so you could be lucky enough to escape for less than 50,000 Euros for a three year degree. Many Germans think that it is unlikely things will be the same in ten years’ time, but who knows.
What are my options? This is the only easy part of the equation for the parent: 1. Let your children pay for their own education 2. Pay yourself for all of your child’s education 3. Share some of the costs between both parent and child.
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Education It was a busy week as any Mum of 2 children or more will tell you as they constantly need stimulating and entertaining but we saw the very best that Bangkok has to offer
A day out with the kids in Bangkok by Madeleine Spencer
y family of 4 - Ella, three and a half with a broken leg in a cast and Frankie, one and a half and very excited spent a week visiting the key attractions in Bangkok during the holidays.
It was a busy week as any Mum of 2 children or more will tell you as they constantly need stimulating and entertaining but we saw the very best that Bangkok has to offer and I would like to share our experiences with other young families. Bangkok Sea Life Centre We walked deep into the ocean where some large spider crabs and a huge octopus were waiting for us. An impressive floor to ceiling 20 foot aquarium with seating areas allows you to sit and take in the beautiful colours and shapes of the myriad of different fish and aquatic animals. After walking through Seahorse Village containing various different species you are led into the rainforest where frogs and snakes are waiting to greet you. Three cheeky otters and Jackdaw penguins wait to entertain you, and the scheduled feeding times
with talks in both Thai and English are very helpful to understand and take it all in. The turtles swim to the side of their tank to greet you and the Gentoo penguins have been given their own man made Antarctic environment with chills to match! The final aquarium really is, however, the ‘piece de resistance’. From shipwrecks to tunnel tanks, we have never been so close or seen so many full size sharks. You are inches away from their large teeth and glares, and are able to view them and their counterpart fish from many viewpoints. All displays are in Thai and English and provide impressive facts about the fish and their habitats. For an extra charge you can also take a ride in a glass bottomed boat and take a behind the scenes tour. A great day out! Dinosaur Planet Located beside Benjasiri Park in Phrom Pong the Dinosaur museum is the best place to start off - with brilliant graphics projected onto various displays giving the history of dinosaurs on
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Plenty of color and stimulation at Bangkok’s Dream World and Dinosaur planet. Pictured above.
planet earth, leading to the different shapes and sizes of dinosaur eggs. The technicians in the laboratory caring for the hatching eggs get a big surprise when the Mummy comes looking for her babies! This leads to Dinosaur Farm where the dinosaur models and animatronics are to scale and impressive, with moving heads, tails and Safari World houses multiples of accompanying sounds. The tens or more of the same animal Dino Eye is an extra charge - with rhinos, zebras, over 200 giving great views over the giraffes and cranes and pelicans surrounding area. Next comes a aplenty. We were lucky enough 4D simulator complete with 4D to see a newborn zebra with the glasses buried deep in the mines. sack still attached, a memory Raptor Extreme is an interactive we won’t forget. Tigers, lions, mission to find secret codes to deers, wildebeests, buffalos and escape through the compounds bears came next and we were emergency exit, a race against fortunate to see them playing, time before the Raptors come to fighting and eating in their own get you! In the 7D cinema whilst environments. standing on the stage projected images on the screen in front The rest of the park is on foot are positioned to interact with through Marine World. The the audience, a real delight for scenery and atmosphere the children. For an extra charge Safari World have created is at Dino Farm children can ride truly magical. Rainforests, on moving dinosaurs, and play flowers and greenery adorn in the sandpit excavating fossils. the walkways overhead and The live exhibition shows do sideways, as do animals- parrots, not start until the evening but birds and owls scattered in promise to impress and enthral and around the pathways and all that come to visit. restaurants. The highlight of the day is the Dolphin Show which Safari World gets very busy and lively and is housed in a huge arena! There We arrived and started off on are other shows performed daily an air conditioned Safari Bus which all have raving reviews. which drove us around what Giraffe feeding was a highlight felt like the real Savannah. where for a 20B charge you With trees resembling Acacia buy bananas and hand feed or Baobab and ponds with the giraffes who are all very bullrushes, the pure expanse pleased to see you! There are of the area feels as though you many photo opportunities with are on the African plains. The animals such as a baby tiger cub, environment is stunning but orangutang, dolphins, where the animals themselves are again for an additional charge outstanding. Whilst common you get a once in a lifetime in most zoos to see two or three experience by getting up close maximum of the same animal, and personal.
Safari World is not to be missed. Expect to be amazed, wondered and awestruck - not to mention thoroughly tired out by the end of the day! Dusit Zoo The zoo is tucked away but has an amazing site. A tiger train drove us round the perimeter allowing us to take in the pretty scenery with much greenery and a vast lake in the centre. Regular stops allow passengers to hop on and off as they desire. We started our foot journey with elephants, wombats and koalas, then penguins and seals. For a small charge you can be entertained by the seal show where the seals have been highly trained to perform with hoops, balls and other props. Applauding themselves at every opportunity! The farm section was a big hit with the children as for a small charge you can hand feed the goats with carrots. The spider and squirrel monkeys adjoining are curious to see who is walking past them every day. The Nocturnal House homes the nighttime animals and is a refreshing break from the heat. Zebras and giraffes share an enclosure and you are then met by troops of monkeys, swinging, playing and chasing each other
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around their enclosures. The tigers, leopards and white tigers all relax in their environments allowing you to view either from above or on street level. The reptile enclosure houses the most enormous crocodile, with many turtles, snakes and lizards keeping it company. There is a chance to hire boats to pedal around the lake, and hire bicycles to get around the large site. The oldest zoo in Thailand, due to be moving soon, this zoo is definitely worth a visit now before it moves. The animals are well young children with goats and looked after with interesting dogs jumping through hoops factsheets to inform and and fetching props. educate - you will enjoy this experience. There is a tourist train and monorail suitable for young Dream World children, and classic cars which families can enjoy This theme park is full of driving. A giant log flume unique and quirky zones and the Grand Canyon river and attractions, complete rapids where both riders and with well manicured gardens spectators can guarantee a and scenery. A Love Garden soaking. There are a couple when you arrive allows for of rides suitable for young photo opportunities, and infants such as Flying Fish the 7 Wonders of the World and the Racing Track cars, provide miniature versions the rest are suitable for older of the Statue of Liberty, infants or young teens. Eiffel Tower and Stonehenge amongst others. There is Snow Town is a unique and a specific Phototopia zone impressive indoor zone providing many props, complete with real snow, statues and figures for photo minus degree temperatures opportunities, as well as many and slopes to slide down in others around the park. A inflatable boats. Figures of cablecar takes you across snowy animals, Christmas the park whilst providing trees and a sleigh allow for spectacular views. photo opportunities and this There is an animal farm where zone makes for a very nice for a small charge you are able break from the heat outside! to hand feed lorikeets, rabbits, There are boutique and goats and deer. You can get market style shops, many into the enclosures with restaurants and food stands the pigs, goats and puppies. and ice cream and smoothie The animal show provides entertainment particularly for outlets throughout the park. 54 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
A trip on the Chaophraya We were lucky to have seen the capitalâ€™s famous river with the Supatra Boat Charter service provided by the Chao Phraya Express Boat Co., Ltd. The uniformed staff greeted us onboard at Maharaj Pier and got us settled before embarking into the frenetic pace of the river in mid morning traffic. Large tugs towed huge barges up and down river and the myriad of small boats with commuter and tripping passengers darted across back and forth across the river. We were taken to the National Museum of the Royal Barge in Bangkok Noi Canal taking in all the sites and views on both sides of the river. You really needed a video camera on both sides of the boat to take in all of the sites, sounds and smells one encounters by this impressive water
limousine service. This spacious boat, was safe and comfortable to accommodate up to 16 adults and children. Then to Wat Arun The Temple of Dawn which was a carnival in itself and one could have spent many hours just people watching, taking in the sights and discovering the history. Then the staff who supplied us with never ending bottles of iced water took us up the river to take in the sites before delivering us back to Maharaj Pier where we took lunch in one of the many restaurants serving the constant supply of tourists. No trip to Bangkok is complete without a river trip. FB: @supatraboatrental www.supatraboat.com
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Oppositional kids in the classroom by John Wilson
“Nowadays, there are only very limited sanctions one can impose on unruly children in the classroom. Behavioural problems in the classroom increase when nothing effective is done about it.”
an you imagine a society where the only power police officers have is to appeal to drivers not to park in forbidden zones? To reason with and persuade them? Motorists would quickly realise they can park as they wish and the police are just a powerless inconvenience. But this is the kind of situation that prevails in schoolrooms with a fraction of oppositional children. These kids can ruin a lesson and they know they can get away with it. No teacher wants to admit she is having major problems with class control. No international school administration wants to advertise the fact it has a percentage of unruly classes. It is in the interests of both not to say anything at all, to keep things quiet and pretend that everything is satisfactory. But doing this means the problem will continue unabated.* The sad fact is many teachers cannot control unruliness in certain classes, not because they lack willpower or strong intentions, but because they have very little support from parents and the administration. Nowadays, there are only very limited sanctions one can impose on unruly children
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in the classroom. Behavioural problems in the classroom increase when nothing effective is done about it. The most difficult age group is between 13 and 16. At this age, young people discover they have a lot of power. They experiment with opposition to see how far it can go. You only need three oppositional children in a class in order to ruin the lesson plan – the teacher is distracted from instruction and has to spend an inordinate amount of time on classroom management. This means the other children get far less attention and an atmosphere of cooperation declines; inevitably, standards begin to drop.
These days, bad behaviour by teenagers is not really penalised. The child may be sent out of the room. They may suffer a tiny sanction. In the worst cases they will be sent home. Teachers, in our time, over a space of a few decades, have effectively been disempowered by parents and administrations. It is no wonder we cannot control a class – we don’t have the means to do so. Reasoning and persuasion does not work. Children feel free to rag each other around, to shout abusive language, to defy the teacher, and to bluntly refuse any kind of cooperation. It is infectious – once gaining momentum, it can spread. Children are quick to spot any weaknesses inside the
system. They know who they can mess around with and who they cannot. Foreign teachers are an easy target. Teenagers are quick to discover when there are few serious consequences to bad behaviour and delight in their power to extend distress, to disseminate further discord. In many instances when a child is “acting out” it can be traced to problems at home. If the parents are always fighting or threatening to divorce, children lose heart, lose confidence in their supervisors, and domestic emotional conflict creates resentment that is taken out on adults at school. In Thailand, the overseas wife may be frustrated and bored because she has few meaningful social contacts and cannot find a decent job. The husband may be flirting with attractive young nationals at work and coming home late, smelling of alcohol. There may be a general lack of integration and adaptation to the overseas location (Bangkok counsellors are inundated with clients with problems of this sort). Before you enrol your child in an international school – or decide you want to change one – try a little “due diligence”. Ask around first for reports from the other parents about what is happening in the classrooms – how much time the teacher is spending on “classroom management”.
“If you want your child to do well at school, and get value and results from your investment, make sure you support the teachers in what they are doing - give them your support for effective discipline in the classroom, and make it generally known.” Ask the kids. Sometimes they will be surprisingly honest. Bad behaviour in the classroom can be curtailed, but it requires a concerted effort from all concerned. There is no use in blaming just one person – it is an institutional practice as a whole that needs considering. It is our joint effort that needs revising. If you want your child to do well at school, and get value and results from your investment, make sure you support the teachers in what they are doing - give them your support for effective discipline in the classroom, and make it generally known.
John Wilson taught in an international school, in Bangkok, for five years. He now restricts his activities to mature students in higher education. *Along with hyperactivity and attention deficits, problems are associated with oppositional defiant disorder. The prevalence of ODD (e.g., defiance, anger, and noncompliance), is based on international research by Angold and Costello, who concluded it is a ‘gigantic public health problem’ with 5–10% of children aged 8–16 years having notable behavioural problems.
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The British Council in Thailand
fter three and a half years in Thailand, Andrew Glass OBE, Director of the British Council in Thailand is reflecting on representing the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities; on the British Council’s role in Thailand and the global stage as well as looking forward to 2020. In conversation with Expat Life, he talks about his ambitions, challenges and the impact of British Council work that has transformed so many people’s lives. Tell us about yourself I came to Thailand in September 2014 after previously working in different roles for the British Council in Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, UK, Serbia and Kuwait. In my free time I like spending time in Thailand’s nature, long distance trekking, good novels and keeping up to date with what’s happening in the world. I am a trustee of a UK charity for people with Addison’s Disease. My wife is from Spain and we have two cats from Kuwait. My first degree was in Politics and German from Bristol University. I also have teaching qualifications, an MA in Teaching English and a Diploma in Management. I speak Spanish, German, Serbian and Italian – some of them rather rusty. 58 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
I was awarded an OBE in the 2012 Queen’s Honours List. The role of the British Council on the world stage and Thailand The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. We were founded in 1934 and are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We’ve been working in Thailand since 1952.
Thailand want to learn English, get UK qualifications or study in the UK. We work on the principle that all this directly supports Thailand’s agenda to move towards a higher value services economy and reduce inequality and the UK’s agenda to strengthen its relations internationally. UK universities are interested in stronger research links as well as offering their services in different ways to international students. UK artists and arts institutions learn and grow in partnership with international colleagues. We see the Ministry of Education here coming to us to support their teacher training and English language assessment. Returning Thai graduates from the UK are excited to exploit their learning and develop in areas where the UK has a great story, such as creative hubs or social enterprise. Priority towards 2020 We group our work in three strategic themes. The themes are: • Raising levels of English • Internationalising Higher • Education and Science • Building a creative economy
I think these are deliberately fairly simple and cover what we do with individual customers as well as partners. Each theme covers a number of services or projects. They correspond to the ‘market’ in the widest sense I have just described. I’m a real believer in the importance of clarity, simplicity and focus when talking about what we do. I am also keen to reflect the totality of what we do and change the brand perception that we are just about teaching English or delivering IELTS, incredibly important as these areas are! In the last three years we have considerably grown our presence across all forms of media and developed extremely important media partnerships with media such as True, the Standard and Wallpaper. Define ‘impact led’ organisation It’s about responding to the challenges and opportunities in both countries in our core thematic areas, being clear about the difference we want to make and stating all that in clear outcome statements. Then it’s about getting on with ‘doing it’ and demonstrating the results of what we have achieved. It is also about scale, focus and stopping doing small things which don’t add up too much. Let me give a concrete example. Both countries need more scientists to develop their economy and address social and environmental problems. Not enough young people are studying science and then going into research. That leads to the question of how to popularise science among young people and the wider public? The UK has had strong results
Agenda to support Thailand and UK priorities There are a number of shared agendas between the UK and Thailand where we can create opportunities for people and build longer term relationships. Both countries are interested in the skills and knowledge agenda; nurturing creativity; promoting internationalisation and cross-sectoral innovation; and developing partnerships in order to develop greater shared prosperity. These areas are all about mutuality and learning from each other. There are other areas where perhaps the traffic is more in one direction – many students and young professionals in facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 59
in the last decade in reversing this trend at both school and university level so how can we use this experience in Thailand? We work with Thai science institutions to help popularise science subjects and give science students tools to help in their research in order to help ultimately support Thailand 4.0. How can we do that? One tool is a competition called FameLab, which encourages young people to study science, gives skills and opportunities to young scientists to work internationally and engage a wider public in the importance of science. So much wonderful science investigation goes unnoticed! By working with True and a range of Thai institutions we magnify the impact we achieve. We can measure short-term changes in perceptions but, of course, longer term change and impact in, say, the number of people studying science or longer term research collaboration cannot be measured overnight and requires a sustained effort. Challenges and progress about your work in Thailand, especially in English teaching areas One example is that the English teaching market is very competitive. Changing demographics present a challenge to all providers, be it in people wanting to learn closer to home or the workplace or decreasing numbers of children per family. So it is up to us to continue to offer a quality
ensure that there is good follow up and mentoring after the training courses to encourage teachers to put their learning into practice, get feedback from colleagues and share with colleagues. So far 8,000 teachers have been through the programme. Satisfaction levels among teachers are at almost unreal levels of well over 90%. A lot of teaching in Thai schools is based on ‘rote memorisation’ learning. More communicative, participatory styles of teaching increase students’ motivation, develop thinking skills and get them to use the language they are learning. How to build inclusive society We are proud in the British Council of having a strong commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). That should be the case of an organisation working to create opportunity and build trust. It is no secret that there are high levels of inequality in Thailand and different people and groups can get a different start in life. One of the key things about RETC for me is that it reaches across the whole country, training teachers in almost every town and village and through them supporting their students. Another example of our contribution in EDI is what we are doing to support women and girls and build sustainable
“The English teaching market is very competitive. Changing demographics present a challenge to all providers, be it in people wanting to learn closer to home or the workplace or decreasing numbers of children per family.” service, give customers what they need, refresh the offer to add value and get closer to the customers. We have developed new programmes such as Primary Plus, MyClass and MyClass Plus to respond to the needs of our customers. How Regional English Training Centres (RETC) project can solve English teaching in Thailand in long term? I think it is true to say that the RETC project is the single largest and most important project British Council has been involved in during its 66 years in Thailand. I am delighted that we have been able to respond to the request of the Ministry and the drive and ambition of Dr Teerakiat and others to make a real difference to English learning across the state system. It started as a 6 week ‘bootcamp’ in March 2016 and somehow that name has stuck! In my opinion it has been successful at a project level because of the scale, the long term commitment, the developing project model and, crucially, at a people level. We have recruited wonderful trainers who’ve given their all to give the Thai teachers a great experience and those teachers have responded equally energetically to a challenging programme and been open to changing their approaches and trying about new things. We are developing Thai master trainers and working with supervisors who can keep the momentum after the project has finished. We 60 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
communities in rural areas of Thailand in the crafts sector. There are some wonderful examples which we have showcased with Wallpaper magazine of craftspeople who have benefited from our training in design, social enterprise and networking with their peers and gone on to preserve their heritage and create more sustainable jobs in the community. Looking back, what would be your legacy in Thailand? I’ve still got some time left on my posting and lots I want us to achieve. I think it’s a bit early to be thinking about my legacy and it’s also about a team not just me, but if you press me, the Regional English Training Centres project has made a huge difference to many people in the country. Through this project, we hope English can provide a better life chance and a step change for the whole country. In terms of leading our organisation, I think we are more focussed and look at real prioritisation, linking our work very closely to the needs of both countries’ agendas. Our work also touches more people’s lives nationwide beyond Bangkok.
8 Oxbridge Offers for Shrewsbury’s Class of 2018 Shrewsbury is proud to announce that no less than 8 students from its hugely successful Riverside campus have received offers to study at Oxford and Cambridge universities next year; a remarkable statistic that underlines the school’s reputation as a regional leader for academic excellence.
is reflected in her choice to read Land France joined Shrewsbury as a Sixth Economy at Queen’s College. Form student in September 2014 There’s also a quartet of Cambridge with the goal of gaining a Cambridge offers to undergraduate Engineering offer. He was quick to benefit from the courses; traditionally a very popular school’s advanced, “beyond curriculum” choice for Shrewsbury students. Panisa mathematical and Higher Education (Mew) Poksawas weighs up on offer expertise, and having transferred from from Sidney Sussex College whilst a school where English was not the Natchanan (Sense) Sunyabhisithkul first language, also gained particularly considers her offer from Selwyn from the support that Shrewsbury was rama scholars Yanissamone College. Meanwhile, Thirat (Pon) able to offer in developing these skills. (Jane) Ngarmnil (Chemistry) Wongwaisayawan, gains an offer from Reportedly nicknamed “The France and Yasmin Nguyen (Human Fitzwilliam College, and Vichayut father” by fellow Cambridge students, Sciences) receive offers to Oxford’s (Firm) Leelayana gains a chance to France is clearly continuing to adapt Balliol College and Mansfield College respectively. Both have recently follow Class of 2017 alumni Earth and well, earning the respect of peers and Ki-Ki at Gonville and Caius College. professors alike. taken lead roles in the school’s major annual stage production, Shrewsbury’s association with both On 29th March Shrewsbury was demonstrating that academics are Oxford and Cambridge grows year proud to host recruitment personnel just part of a balanced and successful on year. In 2017, Tachakrit (Earth) from the University of Cambridge to education offered at Shrewsbury. Tachatirakul became one of just a give a presentation on the university’s Meanwhile, Natcha (Pun Pun) handful of international students courses and admission process; a Yongphiphatwong, recent TEDx in Cambridge’s history to be offered truly outstanding opportunity for speaker and winner of the Bangkok a place on the University’s medical Shrewsbury’s current students, and Economics Essay Competition, also programme, whilst recent news for students from around Bangkok, to receives an offer from the University from Class of 2016 graduate Puriwat learn more about one of the world’s of Oxford’s St. Peter’s College to read (France) Sophonariyanan underlines most prestigious universities, and for Philosophy, Politics and Economics Shrewsbury’s priority not only to help Shrewsbury’s Higher Education team (PPE); one of the world’s most highly students gain the they need to continue to further strengthen their links with regarded (and hotly contested) to top universities, but to nurture the them. undergraduate courses. skills and resilience to thrive there. France finished his first year of For all further information, contact Head Girl, Pimara (Pimmy) engineering as the 4th highest firstname.lastname@example.org Soongswang is amongst five students achieving student in his cohort; The Principal is available for further to receive offers from rival Cambridge another incredible milestone on an comment or interview contact University. Pimmy’s passion for extraordinary personal journey. www.shrewsbury.ac.th sustainability and environmentalism
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Traditional vs integrative medicine
ver the past century, there have been significant advances in detecting, preventing, and treating many chronic and complex diseases in mainstream medicine. However, more often than not, the available treatments bring about limitations and undesired side effects, and sometimes patients find it insufficient to totally cure their illnesses. Hence, the need arises for unconventional methods of treatment, to complement, rather than replace, the known conventional mainstream medical treatments. It comes as no surprise that many of these complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments have been available for centuries. But, in the past, such types of medicine were frowned upon by mainstream medicine seekers who accused them of being unproven or sometimes, even harmful. Today, however, populations have restored their faith in those unconventional types of medicine, now that mainstream methods have fallen short of meeting healthcare needs alone and due to the rising awareness of the safety and effectiveness of those types, namely traditional medicine and integrative medicine. As implied by its name, traditional medicine refers to 62 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
the culture-specific practices in different traditions and countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines traditional medicine as “the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness”. Over the centuries, especially in old civilisations, people have healed with herbal and natural remedies, using knowledge handed down through the generations. In some parts of the world today, such remedies are still the primary source of healthcare for their communities. They use it as an alternative to the conventional care although further research is still needed to examine the efficacy and safety of many of the traditional medicine practices. Among the most commonly used and known traditional medicines are the African, Asian, Islamic, and Persian ones, just to name a few. The most famous Asian traditional medicine is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has been used in treatments for thousands of years. Chinese Medicine consists of five main branches: acupuncture,
Chinese herbal medicine, food therapy, exercise (Tai Chai Qi Gong, Yoga) and meditation, also known as “ancient wisdom healing arts”. Herbal medicine, which has been around for over 5000 years, makes use of natural substances for their effect on specific illnesses and medical conditions. Although originating in ancient times, herbal medicines are still being developed and updated to meet today’s health needs. Some of its products have been empirically proven to be effective in both healing illnesses and restoring health and wellbeing. With the medical and scientific revolutions, conventional medicine became the only trusted medical approach. However, recently, traditional medicine has gained wide acceptance across the world, even in the west, that some types are now used as part of conventional medicine, such as acupuncture, which is widely taught and practised in the US today. Unlike traditional medicine, integrative medicine does not replace nor do without conventional medicine; it rather pairs itself with other forms of medicine with the aim of restoring and maintaining the patient’s overall health, not just healing a single illness. The patient’s health and wellbeing are at the core of the practice of integrative medicine. WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This is the focus of integrative medicine whose approach takes the most effective treatments from different disciplines, including both conventional and alternative approaches, thus making a personalised health plan for each patient’s unique physical and emotional needs. Integrative physicians can be board certified and only use safe, proven and effective treatments, whether conventional or not. For example, in the case of cancer, a doctor can prescribe chemotherapy for their patient and
also, acupuncture, to help reduce the chemotherapy side effects and manage pain. This way, the doctor integrates both conventional and traditional treatments not only to fight cancer, but also, to maintain the patient’s health and wellbeing. Dr Abdulla El-Hossami Head of Integrative Oncology Asia Pacific Verita Life, Integrative Cancer Centre www.veritalife.com 02 554 8300 email@example.com
1 “Traditional Medicine: Definitions”. World Health Organisation. 2008-12-01.
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Dr Lesley Braun, Group Director, Blackmores Institute
Message from Dr Lesley Braun, Group Director, Blackmores Institute
Blackmores Institute Sharing knowledge, changing lives Improving public health through natural medicine Blackmores spearheaded the natural health industry in Australia and has set an unequalled standard, consistently combining the best of nature and science to deliver natural medicine products that help people achieve optimum health. The company was founded more than 85 years ago by Maurice Blackmore, who was a naturopath and a pioneer. He made it his life’s work to provide people with natural health solutions.
A series of firsts Maurice Blackmore developed some of the first naturopathic products in the country and opened one of Australia’s first health food stores and naturopathic clinics. In addition, he published the first consumer and industry journals and established the nation’s first naturopathic education facility. He also established a number of educational bodies, and to honour and continue this commitment to 64 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
education, the Maurice Blackmore Research Foundation was established in 1983. The Foundation’s initial communique noted, ‘The outcome of research and education undertaken by the Foundation should benefit the community as a whole and we see the Foundation as being largely the extension of his visions.’ As the use of natural medicine continues to rise, the industry needs to remain at the forefront of knowledge on the evidence, efficacy, safety and quality of natural medicine and its effective integration with other modalities. It is from this need that the Blackmores Institute was established, representing yet another first in the history of the company.
Blackmores Institute Heritage The Blackmores Institute is the academic and professional arm of Blackmores, established to support and drive an evidence based approach
to natural medicine. Its focus is on research and education; its primary purpose is to improve the quality use of natural medicine by translating the evidence base into practical healthcare education, resources and advisory services. Its team includes researchers, academics, healthcare professionals and communicators, working together to promote the quality use of natural medicines through: • Research funding • Education programmes • Healthcare professional advisory services • Research symposia and conferences • Interactions guidelines • News and research updates • Systematic reviews • Academic projects.
Herbal medicine and diet and lifestyle modifications have been a mainstay of health for millennia. Pharmaceutical treatments are a relative newcomer in history, yet some healthcare professionals (HCPs) rashly dismiss its precursor. No single system of medicine holds a monopoly on curing illness and disease, with approximately 60% of the world’s population continuing to rely heavily on traditional medicine and many using a combination of both modalities to achieve increased health and wellness. In addition to traditional evidence, a growing scientific base for complementary medicine (CM) has enabled an improved understanding of the mechanisms of action, potential safety issues and how to minimise risk, and - most importantly - the best way to use CM for optimal benefits. Some of these uses have been shown to improve public health, with substantial cost savings. It could be argued that HCPs who don’t incorporate CM recommendations into their patients’ management plans aren’t delivering the best standard of care. Many HCPs understand this imperative and are increasingly asking for the tools to provide better care and help patients make informed choices about CM. Blackmores Institute builds knowledge development by supporting research and translating the evidence base into practical education, resources and support services.
Our motto ‘Sharing knowledge, changing lives’ sits at the heart of how we empower people to take more control of their health and live an optimised life, with our new state-of-the-art multi-language education portal for users across the globe proving the perfect complement to regular scientific symposia, weekly research newsletters and training programmes for pharmacy assistants and students. Privileged to collaborate with thought leaders at home and abroad, Blackmores Institute has regional offices in Singapore and Malaysia, and formal partnerships with respected universities including Rangsit University in Thailand, Taylor’s University in Malaysia, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. We support future leaders of the industry with academic grants and fund PhD scholarships and leadership programmes with prestigious research groups such as the National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University and the University of Technology Sydney. With many new natural treatments yet to be explored, we are also supporting independent clinical research across the region. Australia is fortunate to have some of the highest quality and manufacturing standards of CM products in the world. As industry leaders, Blackmores
Institute will continue advocating for good government regulation to ensure the continuing discovery and delivery of new safe and efficacious CM. Our aim is to further unlock the potential of natural health and ensure the public’s right to the best. The journey ahead is exciting and important. With a strong team and great partnerships in the region, we feel confident that natural medicine will continue to grow so more people will benefit now and in the future.
The science of natural medicine Research to support the quality use of complementary medicine Blackmores Institute is committed to supporting scientifically rigorous research that improves the understanding of health professionals and the community on the role of complementary medicine (CM) in advancing public health. Overseen by the Blackmores Institute Research Council, our focus is on research that will build the knowledge base of CM in three key areas: novel ingredient development; discovery and innovation; and legacy. We also proudly support CM leaders of the future through academic and practice grants. For more information, visit www.blackmoresinstitute.org and www.blackmores.co.th
MOU signing with Chulabhorn International College of Medicine, Thammasart University Blackmores’ Executive Director, Marcus Blackmore AM
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Menopause by Dr Donna Robinson
enopause”. A bittersweet word that symbolises the ending of an era. The monthly menstrual cycles that have caused our emotions to fluctuate, are finally coming to a slow and steady halt. For some women, menopause occurs naturally between the ages of 45-55, with changes in menstrual cycles and/or mood being noticed years before having the final period. However, others may experience another type of menopause which is known as premature menopause. This is diagnosed when women begin to go through menopause in their early 40s. It is safe to say that menopause may trigger significant changes in both a woman’s physical and mental state. Some of these changes can be quite uncomfortable and cause disruption to a woman’s life. In this article, we’ll explore what menopause is, what may happen during menopause and finally, the various treatment options to help manage the symptoms (and when you may want to consider these). If you are reading this article, and find that you are experiencing symptoms, it is important to understand that you are not alone in this experience - many women go through the similar struggles and hurdles of menopause to what you may be experiencing, and there are various ways to help manage these. Most women face natural menopause usually between the ages of 45-55 years old. The most noticeable changes
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usually occur during the transition from perimenopause to menopause. For those who are wondering, perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her 40s, but sometimes it can even begin in the 30s. During perimenopause, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and levels of progesterone decline while oestrogen levels remain generally stable. For most women, this difference between hormone levels, otherwise known as oestrogen dominance, can cause serious discomfort and include symptoms such as; • Breast swelling and tenderness • Mood swings • Lack of sleep • Irritability • Weight gain • PMS
• Mood swings • Depression • Headaches and confusion The approach of and beginning of perimenopause and menopause can seem rather daunting. However, it is important to know that mild symptoms can usually be managed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying active and just generally keeping a positive mindset and knowing that there are options there to help you manage symptoms if you feel that these are hindering your daily life.
Additionally, measuring oestrogen levels in the blood can also indicate whether you are experiencing menopause. If your oestrogen level falls below 25 pg/ml, this is usually considered in the menopausal range. Below is a guide that focuses on the oestrogen level that would be seen in each situation. • Normal: 25-75 pg/ml • Menopausal: 25 pg/ml or below, along with high FSH levels • Menopausal experiencing symptoms: 50pg/ml or below
Although natural menopause is the most common form, some women experience what is called premature menopause. This occurs when women experience menopause in their early 30s or 40s. Not only does premature menopause occur earlier, but it also happens significantly faster than normal menopause. Premature menopause can be caused by several conditions, including chronic stress, autoimmune disease and nutrition deficiency. Although some women may experience early menopause due to unknown reasons; for example, it is thought that an erratic, unhealthy lifestyle may be linked to premature menopause. To see whether you are experiencing premature menopause, there are several hormone tests that can help you know exactly what is going on with your body, and whether you are experiencing premature menopause or ovarian failure.
It is important to note that there is not one test to ‘diagnose menopause’ – rather, the results of several hormone level tests (ie FSH, oestrogen, etc.) accompanied with the symptoms that you are experiencing can strongly indicate that you may be experiencing menopause.
The key test to establish whether you are experiencing menopause is called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Blood Level Measurement. Essentially, a sample of blood is taken and if the results show high levels, it means your ovaries are not producing enough oestrogen. This indicates that your body is entering the stage of medicine. Below you will see how your FSH levels may be interpreted; • Pre-Menopausal: 3-20 mlU/ml • Perimenopause: Above 10-12 mlU/ml • Menopause: 30-40 mlU/ml
Both premature menopause and natural menopause can severely affect a woman’s overall persona and mood. A naturally happy and energetic person can begin to feel depression and tidal waves of tears. Disturbed nights can begin to become a regular occurrence due to waking up hot and bothered. Sleep deprivation can become a serious issue and can sometimes affect one’s day-to-day life as well as relationships with others. It is important to know that if you feel that perimenopause/menopause is interfering with your life, you are recommended to seek medical advice. There are many treatment options which involve simple lifestyle changes (ie avoiding certain foods to reduce the occurrence of hot flushes, eating foods which contain phytoestrogens such as whole grains, soy and legumes), symptom management or hormone replacement therapy. Treatment options will be discussed further and in more detail in part 2 of this article. Website: www.medconsultasia.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 02 018 7855
During perimenopause, testosterone levels may also decline and some of the symptoms may be significant in some women. Although they may be more subtle than those of low progesterone, they include; • Loss of sex drive • Depression • Decreased sexual response • Lower energy levels Once perimenopause reaches its final stages and you begin to transition into menopause, the oestrogen levels in your body significantly decrease by approximately 30%-60% (from your pre-menopausal oestrogen levels). Ultimately, this will cause substantial symptoms which often include; • Hot flushes • Night sweats • Lower energy levels facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 67
Dieting exit strategies
“Staying fit and healthy needs to be a holistic lifestyle choice that needs adhering on a regular basis. The progress you make from a crash diet will only be temporary.”
by Rishi Haria
t’s taken months of painstaking dieting and hard graft in the gym to finally achieve a body transformation to be proud of. Time to celebrate with a bottle of Champagne and a well deserved mouthwatering cheat meal of your choice. You wake up the next morning feeling a justifiable sense of accomplishment and achievement, and not to mention a full stomach for a change. The next obvious question you should ask yourself is, “How do I maintain my progress in a sustainable way?” Transitioning from intense dieting to a maintenance or further progression phase, can be tricky and a common pitfall for many people. After my first physique show I made the mistake of not having a long term goal. I had achieved my dream body but felt a lack of direction after the competition. Instead of slowly increasing my calories to a more sustainable and bearable amount, I went on a 2 week binge and gained over 8 kilos (of mostly fat) in that short space of time. I had no long term goal and was deprived of my favorite foods for so long that I created a ‘screw it’ attitude. This was definitely the
Painting by LumiereHelene
worst approach to take and most of my hard work went to waste. After learning from these past mistakes, I came up with effective strategies to help transition from a period of dieting into longer term progress. Reverse dieting & body recompostion It’s not feasible to constantly be in a calorie deficit once you have reached your original goal. Your energy levels, motivation, metabolism, and performance in the gym will all eventually
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suffer. A viable option would be to reverse diet out of a fat loss phase. This is where you slowly taper up your calories on a week by week basis in conjunction with keeping your training levels high – which will enable you to boost your metabolism back up. Your scale weight might increase a bit but you should prevent any future rebound because you’re allowing yourself to gradually eat more. A sudden but significant increase of calories might be too hard for your body to process. In this instance you might put the weight back on that you spent
ages trying to lose. Staying fit and healthy needs to be a holistic lifestyle choice that needs adhering on a regular basis. The progress you make from a crash diet will only be temporary. It is possible to improve your body shape without the need to keep losing weight. You can stay the same weight or even gain a little bit. This type of goal is described in the fitness world as a body recomposition phase. This is achieved by eating at maintenance (not a deficit) in addition to training hard and progressively.
Strength training will help you sculpt your physique without needing to cut your calories too low. If you want firmer glutes and stronger thighs then you better get squatting! Performance related goals are a fun way to stay motivated with your training and new dietary habits. There are many athletes that are in great shape but have a higher calorie diet than the average person trying to drop some body fat. Maybe training for the Spartan Race or a marathon will keep your interest going and also keep you in the shape that you worked so hard to achieve. A massive plus side of performance goals is that you won’t have to limit your carbohydrate intake as much as before. Pancakes anyone?
might be). I look great shirtless but it’s a pain in my backside being an avid foodie when I’m so restricted on my calorie intake. You have to find the right balance that fits your lifestyle. It has to enhance it as opposed to making you get fed up with the constant dieting and hours of cardio. An enjoyable lifestyle is an easily maintainable one. Eating healthy with a decent level of quantity control goes a long way when it’s combined with a few hours of training a week. You can also schedule in a couple of sensible cheat meals a week to keep you sane! After you effectively learn how to track your calories/macros, it should set you up nicely to be able to intuitively grasp how much you should be eating. The MyFitnessPal app is a great tool to help you understand more about food quantities, but it’s not something you have to keep using for the rest of your life if you don’t want to. A well executed dieting phase is a great starting point to a healthy, fit, and sustainable lifestyle moving forwards for many years to come.
Enhancing your life The point of getting into shape is to improve your life somehow. Whether it be for your health, sense of wellbeing, self-confidence, or just to be pain free, there needs be a solid reason for your hard work to be sustainable. For me, staying 7% body fat all year round is not a fun goal to have (for some it
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Advancements in technology to treat a cardiac problem How to treat a ‘hole in the wall’
ukumvit Hospital successfully treats a Kuwaiti patient by fixing the ‘hole’ in his heart wall, treating his atrial septal defect (ASD) without requiring major surgery.
Dr Wasan Udayachalerm Intervention cardiologist
the clock trying to find a diagnosis. Mr Abdullah was subject to a number With recent advancements in of procedures including blood tests, technology there is finally good news Xrays, electrocardiogram (EKG), for patients suffering from atrial MRI and even a unique ultrasound septal defects (ASD), more commonly scan designed especially for the heart recognised as a ‘hole’ in the heart. known as the Transesophageal Echo The breakthroughs were highlighted (TEE). After meticulously studying a few months ago when the Kuwaiti the patient’s results, it was concluded embassy referred a patient by the name that the cause was ASD, or in layman’s of Abdullah to Sukumvit Hospital for terms a ‘hole’ in the heart. specialised treatment. But what is ASD? It is a ‘hole’ in the wall that separates the two upper Mr Abdullah, at the very young age of chambers of the heart or atria. This 34 suffered from weakness, difficulty defect causes oxygen-rich blood breathing, swelling in the stomach, to leak into the oxygen poor blood and was unable to walk for more than chambers of the heart, causing a a few minutes. The medical team at the disruption in the natural flows. An hospital worked rigorously and around amount of the blood that should be flowing into the left ventricle (lower pumping chamber) from the left atrium is now also flowing into the right because of the ASD. As a result, more blood travels to the right side of the heart and back to the lungs rather than throughout the body. “Mr Abdullah’s procedure was an astounding success. He was not only lucky to have avoided the high expenses of major heart surgery but
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also the pain and scars that come with the process.” Dr Wasan Udayachalerm, Intervention cardiologist ASD is commonly a genetic defect that a patient can develop while still in the womb. Some defects are very small and do not affect the wellbeing of an individual throughout their lifespan. However, it is also common that the hole in the heart expands as the person grows which can lead to all kinds of discomfort and complications, in some cases it is even fatal. Once the defect was diagnosed, Mr Abdullah was transferred to Sukumvit Hospital’s Heart Centre, where a talented team of cardiac specialists led by Dr Wasan Udayachalerm, one of Thailand’s most prominent and respected intervention cardiologists prepared to proceed with treatment. After methodically studying the patient’s case and measuring the exact size of the defect or ‘hole’, Dr Wasan determined that Mr Abdullah did not require a major surgery to fix his condition but rather, an advanced ASD Occluder could be employed. This device is shaped like a double-
“Mr Abdullah’s procedure was an astounding success. He was not only lucky to have avoided the high expenses of major heart surgery but also the pain and scars that come with the process.” umbrella and is capable of plugging the hole in the wall of the heart, a procedure similar to an angioplasty where a stent is inserted into a small artery. However, in this situation the practise calls for an occluder to be carefully inserted and directed with a catheter all the way into the heart. Mr Abdullah’s procedure was an astounding success. He was not only lucky to have avoided the high expenses of major heart surgery but also the pain and scars that come
with the process. Within a few days, Mr Abdullah was discharged from the hospital and in his own words, he described his treatment at Sukumvit Hospital as “incredibly professional. I was taken care of very well and the doctors were extremely talented. Thanks to the facilities and staff, my body feels absolutely normal now.” Dr Davin Narula, Hospital Director
Sukumvit Hospital, which began its operations in 1977, has just completed a major makeover. Not only have they built a brand new building, but the entire team of doctors, specialists, nurses and assistants have all been trained with the singular aim of helping their patients maintain optimum health. Then there are the equipment, stateof-the-art MRIs, Cath labs and a myriad of others, so that their specialists have the best available tools for diagnosis and treatment. Conveniently located on Sukhumvit Road with English speaking staff, Sukumvit Hospital is now ready for any emergencies or treatments.
Sukumvit Hospital 1411 Sukhumvit Road (Ekkamai BTS) Prakanong nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Thailand 10110 Tel: 02 391 0011 www.sukumvithospital.com www.facebook.com/sukumvithospital facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 71
Nattawan Utoomprurkporn, MD. ENT Msc in Audiovestibular medicine(UCL ,UK)
Age related hearing loss: how to cope with it? by Dr Manut Utoomprurkporn Eartone Clinic: Ear and Hearing Aids Centre in Thailand At Eartone, they have the top ear specialists who are all board certified hearing specialist doctors. Eartone ear specialists’ teams have grown over the years. Their doctors are highly trained with experience in hospitals in the USA, UK and Europe. With highly qualified doctors and staff along with the best testing equipment for hearing impairments and the ear, they are proud to be recognised all over Thailand. Eartone is one of the most renowned ear and hearing aids centres in Thailand. It is operated by Eartone (Thailand) Co. Ltd., the leading importer, manufacturer and distributor of hearing healthcare equipment especially hearing aids in Thailand. They are the sole distributor for world leading hearing aids including Phonak, Beltone, Hansaton and Interton. The centre has been established for over 20 years by Manut Utoomprurkporn, M.D., a hearing 72 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
specialist and member of the Board of Otolaryngology (ENT). Since then, Dr Manut constantly brings latest hearing technology from around the world to the Eartone centre. They have doctors on site every day for your consultation. Their one stop service centre can provide doctor consultation, ear examination through microscope and endoscope, hearing testing up to the brain level. You will come in and walk out of our centre with all your ear related problem resolved. Moreover, they have engineers on site to custom make your hearing aids, troubleshoot and repair your hearing aids right away. No need to wait for days on end without hearing and understanding other people at work or at home. Service Some of the services at Eartone • Ear examination via microscope with real time TV link broadcast for patients and family view • Hearing tests • Hearing aids fitting
• Repairing hearing aids • Custom made in ear monitoring for musicians • Swimming/noise protection ear mould • Batteries and accessories The Eartone comprehensive care system When a patient walks into Eartone, they always try their best to solve his/her problems. They realise that every patient is unique, so diagnosis is always made with thoroughness by following the “Eartone comprehensive care system”. Beginning by assessment of the patient problems, their doctors interview the patient regarding the symptoms. Then, patients undergo visual examination of an ear via microscope. With their real time TV link screen broadcast, the patient and their family can also see the abnormalities inside the ear and the treatment processes. Their centre offers numerous hearing and ear associated tests and diagnostic
tools, which are from the latest available technology from around the world; for example Pure-tone and speech Audiogram, Tympanogram, Acoustic reflex test, Eustachian tubal sonogram[ETS], Auditory Brainstem response[ABR], Electrocochleogram, Auditory Steady State Response[ASSR] etc. A wide range of tests are available at Eartone to help accurately diagnose patients even with rare and complicated symptoms. However, the patient usually undergoes only one or two necessary tests, evaluation by the doctors to be essential for the diagnosis and treatment. The test results are interpreted by an ear specialist doctor and explained to the patient. Then, the doctor tailors the treatments to the patient’s needs. Usually the problem is hearing loss, which the doctor may be able to treat with medical interventions. However, a lot of patients suffer from irreversible hearing loss such as age related hearing loss (Presbycusis). If that is the case, then the patients are fitted with appropriate hearing devices. The main products include custom made hearing aids. They are also well experienced in providing completely in the canal hearing aids (CIC), where others can hardly tell that the patient is wearing a hearing aid. They also provide these products through leading hospitals and hearing aids centres throughout the country. In addition, their centre supplies accessories and repairing services related to all types of hearing aids. Visiting the centre Eartone Thailand has several clinics
Manut Utoomprurkporn MD. ENT. Hearing Specialist
in Bangkok. Their two main centres are located in the heart of Bangkok. One is located in the first floor of Bangkok Mediplex Building, which is directly connected to BTS Ekkamai station at Sukhumvit 42. Another is at Sukhumvit 22 opposite the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park Hotel (BTS Phrom Pong). They also have branches in many provinces throughout the country.
Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110 Tel: 02 712 1177, 02 713 6231-2 For taxi : ชั้น 1 ตึกบางกอกเมดิเพล็กซ์ ปาก ซอยสุขุมวิท 42
e-mail : email@example.com Line id : @eartone Call Center 02 712 1177; 089 116 4059
Eartone Clinic: Ear and Hearing Aids Center Sukhumvit22 branch 20 Sukhumvit 22, Opposite Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park Hotel, Bangkok 10110 Tel. 02 258 2348, 02 259 2502, 089 116 4060 For taxi : คลินิก หู คอ จมูก และเครื่องช่วย ฟัง สุขุมวิท 22 ตรงข้ามโรงแรมแบงค็อก แมริออท มาร์คีส์ ควีนส์ปาร์ค
Sukhumvit 42 branch 1st Floor, Bangkok Mediplex Building, Next to Starbucks Coffee, 2/29 Sukhumvit 42, Phra Khanong,
Thaweekiat Thamaratakul MD.ENT. Otoneurology
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A healthy business by Robin Westley Martin
he instigation of medical tourism in Thailand can largely be attributed to one hospital group Bumrungrad International Hospital, known by its patrons from around the world as, simply, Bumrungrad. Bumrungrad began its rise in 1980, when it opened as a small to medium sized 200 bed hospital in a fairly quiet part of the city, sandwiched between New Petchaburi Road and the beginning of Sukhumvit Road, with the Saen Saeb canal (khlong) running nearby. It is still there to this day, but has expanded considerably from those early days, and is now SE Asia’s largest private hospital, with 580 licensed beds and capacity for over 5,500 outpatients per day. Bumrungrad was the first hospital in Asia to receive the US standard accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI). It has also become a regional centre for specialty medicine and is now one of the world’s top destinations for medical tourism. In the not too distant past well-off people from the poorer countries of the world would have travelled to Western countries for their urgently required medical care, but that has all changed, and often the reverse is now true. So, how did this change come about? As far as Thailand is concerned, the man with the answers is Dr Erik Fleischmann. Dr Erik (first names are generally used in Thailand) gained a medical degree in California as a physician in 1988, later training in general surgery, as well as completing residency training in oncology in Southern California and an Oncology Fellowship in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He then travelled widely, working in various medical facilities around the world, before settling in Thailand, a country he had returned to many times during his global journeying. Dr Erik has now been Director of International Medicine at Bumrungrad for the last three years, but he has a more than 15 year association with the hospital, and both his children were born there. Said Dr Erik, “During the economic crisis of 1997, businesses, including private hospitals, were suffering greatly. The management of Bumrungrad decided to do something about this, and reached out to the governments of their Middle Eastern patients.”
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This proved to be a good strategy. Within a few years Bumrungrad was booming, and it was not long before other private hospital groups in Thailand followed the same model. Bumrungrad International Hospital now offers 38 specialty centres and clinics, and more than 1,200 doctors represent virtually all types and sub-specialties of medicine, such as dental, general and specialty medicine, advanced diagnostics and therapeutics, surgical services, intensive care, and rehabilitation are all available. Annually the hospital treats over 1.1 million patients annually, from 190 different countries, for a whole range of medical services ranging from comprehensive checkups to intensive cardiac surgery. Dr Erik appeared to be proud to relate that Bumrungrad is one of the finest for cardiac care anywhere in the world. The doctors, surgeons, and nursing staff are all internationally trained to the highest standards, and the technology and equipment the hospital boasts compares well with any western medical facility. In fact, Bumrungrad has one of only three Cardiac Dysthymia Ablation units in the world (the other two are in the US and France), and are the only hospital to use it for treating patients clinically, rather than just as a research tool. At Bumrungrad, use of this machine negates the necessity of surgery for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, for example. Bumrungrad is also lucky to have the services of veteran cardiologist Dr Koonlawee, one of the world’s top specialists in cardiac arrhythmia, who still commutes (now in his sixties) to Thailand every two weeks from his home in Los Angeles, where he is the top specialist in his field at UCLA. He is the man who wrote the book on cardiac arrhythmia, facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 75
Dr Erik told us. In many countries around the world foreign doctors are a mainstay of the health services of those countries. The NHS of the UK, for example, would not be able to survive without its foreign doctors and nursing staff. But this is not the case in Thailand. In Thailand foreign doctors are not allowed to practice, and when Bumrungrad set out to become a world class facility that wanted to attract medical tourists from around the world, they had to do something to bring back their doctors and surgeons who had trained abroad, and were working in the UK, US, or Australia, for example. The Thai government made it attractive for these highly trained physicians to return home to their homeland to practice. These doctors, upon their return, chose to transfer the knowledge they had acquired abroad by donating part of their time to the educational and public sector, thus transferring the knowledge back into Thailand, that they had been at pains to acquire in some of the best medical schools and hospitals in the west. This trend continues to this day. International patients in 2018 continue to flock to Bumrungrad for oncological treatments, cardiology (the world’s smallest pacemaker is available), orthopaedics, kidney disease, and cosmetic surgery, to name but a few. After a consultation and thorough examination by a doctor, the required medical procedures are immediately available – no waiting time. When treatment is over Bumrungrad has a care system that works closely with the patient to return them home to their own country in comfort and safety. If it is felt that a nurse or doctor is needed to travel with a patient, then that service is available. Currently, the largest 76 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
“These doctors, upon their return, chose to transfer the knowledge they had acquired abroad by donating part of their time to the educational and public sector, thus transferring the knowledge back into Thailand” number of foreign patients who are treated at Bumrungrad come from Myanmar, followed by the UAE, but last year there were 20,000 patients from the USA, and this number is continuing to rise. The welcoming persona of Thai people, the service oriented ethic, and the reverse brain drain of Thai doctors who have received the best training outside their own country set the course for what Thailand has become today. One of the world’s top medical tourism destinations. For further information on what Bumrungrad can offer you, please check www.bumrungrad.com
Robin Westley Martin has been working as a journalist in Thailand and Southeast Asia for nearly 30 years. He first worked as News Editor for Business in Thailand magazine, before moving on to edit and write for the Thai Airways domestic in-flight magazine, and also Hotel & Travel. He continues to work in Thailand and Southeast Asia as a freelance writer for several magazines, covering a wide range of genres. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: Robin Westley Martin Line: robinsiam555
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Retiring to Thailand
Retiring to Thailand? by Daniel Sencier
ven the name ‘Thailand’ evokes exotic, and whether you’re enjoying the world-class beaches in the tropical south or exploring the remote mountain villages in the cooler north, the country will never disappoint. Often coined the ‘Jewel of Southeast Asia,’ this lush country is bordered in the north by Myanmar and Laos, with Vietnam sliding down its east coast, to Cambodia in the south where it links to Malaysia along the Gulf of Thailand. With all these mystical venues little more than an hour’s flight from the illustrious capital, Bangkok, who wouldn’t want to retire there! Thailand is fondly referred to as the ‘Land of Smiles’ because of the charm of its people, and you see evidence of this wherever you go, regardless of economic means the people manage to smile through everything, arguably making this proud nation the most welcoming on earth. It’s no wonder that Thailand appeared seventh in the UK Daily Telegraph’s recent top ten of “best places to retire abroad,” even though countries nearer the UK, such as Portugal,
Greece and Spain, and giants like the USA and Australia were featured. So, what is it that makes this relatively small country such an attraction for the current 275,000+ expat community, blissfully settled here. Weather Much of the year sees the country basking in a tropical, humid climate, with three distinct seasons in Bangkok and further north. December to February is cooler, benefiting
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from the breezes flowing off the northeast monsoon which is no longer present between March and May, making it relatively hotter. From May to November the Southwest monsoon brings the rainy season, and although there is a vast amount of rainfall at that time, often causing severe flooding, the sunshine still dominates with threatening dark thunder clouds disappearing as quickly as they arrived. November to May is mainly dry with just the odd surprise of a sudden downpour as if to remind us that water is king here! The south has only two seasons, wet and dry, but curiously, these seasons don’t match up on the east and west side of the peninsula, the southwest monsoon bringing a deluge to the west coast between April and October, with the east coast receiving most of its rain from September to December. Rainfall in the south is usually double that of the north with far more significant exposure to the monsoon season but mainly out of reach of larger weather systems, such as typhoons. In general, nationwide, average daily temperatures will run from a high in April of 33°C to a low of 26°C around December with night times only rarely dropping below 20°C. So, the message here is don’t bring any big coats, wooly jumpers or socks; you’ll never need them! Bring t-shirts, short sleeved shirts, open shoes, shorts or light trousers, a few sun hats and an
umbrella; then again why bring anything, it’s all cheaper than home when you’re out shopping in Thailand! Areas to consider: Bangkok The capital city is well geared up for tourists and a top destination that almost everyone will want to visit in their lifetime; such is the international glitz and reputation of this buzzing city. You can feel as if you’re a hundred years back in time when lost in the ancient backstreets of Chinatown then suddenly find yourself propelled to the space age shopping malls that are still sprouting everywhere. An excellent public transport system ensures a quick and easy ride to most places with taxis, tuk-tuks, and motorbike taxis filling the gaps when needed. Restaurants, catering for every nationality and possible taste, serve an endless stream of foreigners, affectionately referred to by the Thais as ‘farang’ or you can eat from the thousands of street food stalls which have become as iconic as the Wats (temples) to the Bangkok landscape. Chiang Mai This much smaller city in the cooler north is very popular with expat retirees who have become well organised with many welcoming clubs and organisations. You can walk
the endless jungle trails, try mountain biking, kayaking or whitewater rafting and may still muster the energy to visit the three hundred plus temples scattered throughout the region. Unlike Bangkok, Chiang Mai is small enough to bump into people you know, and if you join one of the many social groups here, you’ll make friends fast. Phuket If you want your retirement by the sea, with world class beaches, glamorous nightclubs, bars and seafood restaurants as far as the eye can see, then this is the place for you. Rainforests top this tropical island in the Andaman Sea, where the west coast hosts the location of many high-end resorts, spas and restaurants. Choose the capital, Phuket City, with its old shophouses and busy markets, or Patong, the bustling little resort town with an array of bars, discos and nightclubs, either way, you’ll find a great welcome awaits. Hua Hin Once a quiet fishing village, though far livelier today, this town may suit the quieter retiree and is undoubtedly a holiday favourite with the Thai elite, the royal family having completed the building of a palace here in 1921. Five star hotels and seafood restaurants line the coast along a facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 79
Retiring to Thailand links. However, in general, you are going to pay peanuts for property in comparison to the USA or Europe. But then you come up against a very complex system of purchase rules because a foreigner, cannot by law, own land. There are ways around this, leaseholds, setting up a Thai limited company or marrying a Thai person, either way, you can only buy property if 51% of it is owned by a Thai national. Renting is very reasonably priced but, if you decide to buy, it is highly recommended that you get expert advice. A one-bedroom apartment rental in the city centre could cost you as little as 15,000B a month but that’s a very basic dwelling so expect to start at around 25,000B for a decent place. The further from the city you live, the more you get for your Baht, and you can afford a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs for what you’d pay for a tiny condo in the city. Fuel costs Fuel costs are very reasonable, and at home, your electricity bill will cover the air-con, cooking (unless you use cylinder gas) and washing machine. Typically, your utility bill will average around 2,500B per month, including water and trash collection. Fuel for the car is still very reasonable and a full tank for a small car will typically cost around 800B.
beautiful sandy beach, popular with kite surfers and family bathers. The fishing harbour is a fascinating visit, still hosting a well-attended market, supplied by the small, well worn fleet. You can watch the cheeky specialist monkeys here as they steal crabs from the boats and markets before diving into the sea to escape!
Internet/phone For just over 450B you’ll get high-speed cable internet +60mbps with unlimited data usage and a further 400B will cover your mobile phone bill, again with
Chiang Rai Close to the Laos and Myanmar border and also with a significant expat community, this small city was the caretaker of the jade Emerald Buddha, now at Wat Phra Kaew in the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. You’ll trek through rural areas of rice paddies, waterfalls and ancient monuments in temperatures far cooler than the capital, with an altogether much slower pace of life. Chiang Rai is an ‘out of the way’ location, with all the peaceful benefits you’d expect, but it does have a hospital, shopping mall and bustling local markets.
income per year that exceeds 800,000B Note – A criminal record may prevent you from obtaining a Thai retirement visa. 2. Obtain a one year retirement visa. You’ll have to be over 50, have a Thai bank book along with a letter from your Thai bank confirming your account. This along with your passport, departure card and photos. 3. You must then obtain an ‘extension of stay’ notice and a ‘re-entry permit,’ this will allow you back into Thailand if you ever leave. 4. You must report to the ‘Immigration Police’ every 90 days to sign in and verify your address. There are penalties for non-compliance, ranging from fines to deportation, so do take this request very seriously.
Visa requirements To retire in Thailand there are four steps: 1. Obtain a non-immigrant visa from your Thai embassy or consulate. You’ll need to take your passport and proof that you have: • A bank account with a balance of at least 800,000B or • A monthly income of at least 65,000B or • A combination – A bank account and
Buying or renting a house House prices are astonishingly cheap and you can pick up a very nice, small condo in Phuket for around 1,000,000B. If you’re willing to head up north to Chaing Mai and out of town a little, you’ll be looking at less than 300,000B, but head into central Bangkok and this same property will fetch over 1,500,000B. Of course, prices vary considerably depending on location, size, transport and even school
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unlimited data and calls. You have to remember though, the average take home pay is just a little above 17,000B a month, which does put prices into perspective. Eating out You can have lunch at an inexpensive restaurant for 100B, but if you want a recognisable comparison, a Big Mac will cost between 165B and 190B depending on the area. 500B will get you a 3 course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, and as in any large city, you can pay almost anything at the top end. Domestic beer comes in around 125B a litre but double that if you want imported ale, and if you want something stronger, spirits are a far cheaper option than wine, which can be extremely costly even in supermarkets. Just about all foods will seem very inexpensive to you, apart from beef and cheese which you’ll treat yourself to very occasionally. Shopping Many western brands are available in the more central outlets but over time you’ll start to recognise your favourites on the shelves and there’s much fun to be had in learning a whole new diet. In your home country you always longed for Thai food, but over time the opposite will happen as European and USA brands wave at you from the shelves and you pick them up and hug them as if old friends. They won’t be cheap though, and along with cheese will become a luxury item in a shopping trolley that will in general cost you less than half the price you paid at home. Thai language Thai people are among the friendliest you will find anywhere and even more so if you make some effort to
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Retiring to Thailand destitute. Private hospitals in Thailand are among the best in the world and medical tourism into Thailand is snowballing, with low costs and usually far superior treatment. However, access to all this technology for the average expat is only feasible via medical insurance. Crime If you’re polite, courteous and respectful of others, you’ll have no problems in this peaceloving country. People usually feel very safe walking the streets, even at night, and there’s a general feeling of tranquility amidst the chaos as you go about your day. Policing is mainly low profile with much of their time spent on traffic control and shopping malls, hospitals and all other large buildings have their own security.
learn a little of their language. Many speak some English, especially in the expat populated areas and it’s now taught as standard in most state schools, so don’t hold back, have a go and they’ll laugh with you! You can take private lessons in Thai for under 400B an hour or as part of a class even cheaper; a great way to meet new friends! Respect for elders The best thing about retiring to Thailand is something that you only really notice once you get there, but for many, it’s such a big thing, it’ll make you want to stay forever. It’s the respect shown to older people! As an elder in this beautiful country, you matter! Older Thais are the head of their families; they are consulted before important decisions are made and always considered first at any social gathering. Now isn’t that alone enough to make you want to get there fast? Public transport If you’re going to live in central Bangkok, ask yourself if you need a car at all because public transport and taxis are very reliable and inexpensive. 70B will take you on the longest journeys via the BTS (Skytrain) and if you flag down a taxi you can go right across town for under 150B; unless of course you jump on a motorbike taxi, then you’re looking at a fraction of that price. Living in the suburbs or anywhere else in the country, you will find that a car is 82 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
essential as public transport, although very cheap, tends to be unreliable, mainly without air-con and not overly clean. Buying new will work out slightly more expensive than you’re used to at home, but there are bargains galore on the secondhand market; shop around and use reputable dealers. Religion 94% Buddhist, 5% Muslim and 1% Christian, but tolerance for other’s faiths is high in this country, with many westerners discovering that the peace of mind embedded in Buddhist philosophy is just what they’ve been searching for all their lives. Religion plays a crucial role in the lives of the Thai people and you will witness this all around you in every day life. Medical insurance and hospitals Medical insurance is a MUST, or you could find yourself, not only with health problems but also in serious financial difficulties. Many people take the gamble and get away with it, but others come unstuck! You are allowed to attend a Thai state hospital for treatment and many are very good, but they will soon want you to move on to a private hospital, especially if you’re experiencing complications. Expats who have started out with minor symptoms have ended up contracting pneumonia, been put on life support for many weeks, then been faced with bills of 2-3MB plus, wiping out any capital they had and leaving them
Meeting people Yes, you can go to bars and coffee shops, even a walk in the park and you’ll meet people, but this may take a very long time, especially if you’re looking for those who share common interests and maybe of a similar age group. That’s why you should look up www.meetup.com where you can choose from thousands of groups, and if you’ve got an interest, you can bet that someone has started a group to cover it, and if not, you can start one yourself. Far better to be proactive in retirement as nothing will come to you, you have to get out there and meet it!
step, you want to find out now, not when it’s too late. • Take advice on your pensions and on any other financial implications of moving abroad. • Know your tax obligations, both in Thailand and your home country. • Decide what to do about your property in your home country, let, sell, etc. Consider storage, charges and insurance. • Do you have pets to relocate? Check any special requirements. Select some reputable international removal companies and obtain several quotes. • Make the appropriate authorities aware of your plans, both in Thailand and your home country. • You can secure a Thai driving license when you arrive, it’s also a useful form of identity, saving you carrying your passport. Make sure you bring an international driving license with you as this will make the whole process easier. • Inform your bank and credit card companies of the date you will be moving to Thailand. Otherwise, they may block your transactions! • Contact local expat groups in Thailand before you travel, a good source of advice and many have online forums where you can meet others undertaking the same adventure.
Other considerations: • Visit Thailand first – go on holiday! If you’re thinking of retiring there and you can fulfil the visa requirements, what better than to immerse yourself in the culture and take a holiday, covering perhaps 2 or 3 of your shortlisted dream locations. • Research everything very carefully, it’s a big facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 83
Retiring to Thailand
An interview with John Lee Chairman, Premiere Home Health Care Co. Ltd., CEO of Jin Wellbeing County Project
Expat Life sat down with John Lee, the Singaporean President of Jin Wellbeing County to discuss their active living retirement complex and programme on the Phaholyothin Road going north out of Bangkok.
r Lee was a director for many years employed in major hospitals in Thailand. He has seen the many changes in medical health evolve in
number 3 in Asia. Number 1 is Japan, number 2 is Singapore which is approaching 20% now Thailand will also be 20% in 5 years time.
Thailand. Over the years several private hospitals were built and grew “Jin Wellbeing County” The new residential concept in rapidly to the centre for medical tourism and excellence retirement - The ultimate senior facility designed with that we know Thailand for today. Thai society has changed universal design philosophy said Mr Lee, as it has all over the world, and we are now The interior design of Jin Wellbeing County follows universal catering for an ageing population. In 5 years time 20% of design principles to ensure that furniture and other designed the Thai population will be senior citizens. With increasing elements are simple and easily adaptable to each resident’s age chronic illness problems occur and so has the need for ageing preference. All family members can live harmoniously assisted living. and equipment for seniors can be conveniently and safely installed in the future. Eight years ago the market was not ready but Dr Boon Vanasin Founder, Chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group The ultimate senior healthcare services Plc. who established the Thonburi Healthcare Group more Life can be all about happiness and fun with health woes off than forty years ago as a graduate of the School of Medicine your back. At Jin Wellbeing County, healthcare is simplified has been planning this development for many years. He with their all round optional services. has since built a chain of hospitals in Thailand so this Timeline development in the provision of healthcare is a natural The piling is already done and they will commence digging transition. As a medical visionary he had the foresight to lay down plans for the ageing population which in Thailand the foundations in the 4th quarter of 2018 - November December. has also become more financially stable. SE Asia is becoming an ageing society where the percentage The transfer of documents and the first occupants will move of population is in the senior citizen category. Thailand is 84 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
You can get a retirement visa in Thailand at the age of 50 and all you have to do is confirm that you are still based at the same address every 90 days to the immigration authorities in Thailand. The concierge service at the The current site goes back another 2 kilometres to the complex will cater for all these eventualities. Rangsit red line train tracks so they have the land to expand in the current location if necessary. As Rangsit is liable to flood they have built a moat all round the complex to allow This is a ultimate senior healthcare solution for Asian, the water to run off. There are also lagoons and canals built Australian and Western expats. Prevention which provides a clear professional evaluation with recommendations for on site to take the pressure off the complex. tailored dietary and wellness active in its plans. Treatment Mr Lee was very pleased to tell me that they have already on site courtesy of general clinic and emergency response received their first award an Honourable Mention at The teams. Recovery in the rehabilitation hospital with 2018 Environment for Ageing Design Showcase - the only hydrotherapy and physiotherapy programmes available and project in Asia to be recognised. After looking round the Long Term Care for chronic illnesses and for the aged. scaled model with the 1,300 units divided in to several A personal tracking system is available for all residents cells - 44 and 66sqm metre show flats priced between 4 - 6 million Baht I think that this will be the first of many active whilst highly secure control systems protective premises at every gate and lift with 24/7 monitoring. The complex retirement communities from Jin Wellbeing. will offer residents a range of workshops, classes and community projects to encourage residents to spend as Thailand is the perfect country to locate active retirement much time out of their individual unit as possible and into complexes primarily because of the climate, the cost of the community. living and labour costs. Given the option of growing old in a cold north European climate like the UK or one of You can contact Jin Wellbeing County for more information the Scandinavian countries with dark mornings and early on 02 147 5758, 062 802 9999 or check the website nights, wet and cold and taxed to the eyeballs, the sunny www.jinwellbeing.com climes of Thailand with their delightful people, good cuisine and low taxation, there is little choice. in in 2019 and they hope to have all units occupied by March 2019.
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Views from above always well lit, colourful and an enough mixture of greens and blue.
Singapore - forever in our hearts
offer except from Orchard Road and the riverside area. You have to look beyond the luxury buildings to see that even Singapore has a genuine and quite loveable soul and charm.
by Monica Nilsson
hen we first set down our feet on Singaporean ground back in 1999 it felt like walking straight into a sauna. I used to joke about it. “I haven’t felt this kind of steamy heat since back in school after 20 kids had just taken a hot shower all at once after a gymnastics lesson”. It was our second post as an expat family and we were quite excited about it since it was very far away from Sweden. All we knew was that it is a tropical small country in Asia, very well developed, with lots of palm trees and skyscrapers. I still remember my husbands words when he gave me the news about a new contract opportunity. It simply was the words: -You’re going to love it! Singapore is a comparatively young country, only 52 years old as an independent
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state. They celebrate their Independence Day on 9th of August every year. Two years ago it was a big party. The island used to belong to Malaysia and then it was a British colony. The Japanese occupied Singapore under the Second World War and after that the British army took it back again. This is the shortest history version and summary of the background. There is an interesting war museum at Changi area. The Battle Box in Fort Canning Park is also interesting and a quite different visit of a museum. Singapore means “The Lion City” and it has a so called “Merlion” as a symbol, which is a mix between a lion and a mermaid. As you can guess by the name. It can be spotted in Benjakiti Park here in Bangkok as well. It was a gift from Singapore to Bangkok many years ago. Singapore is the country with almost 6
million people and is known as being the country with the highest living standards in Asia. Still today it has very low or hardly any crime. It is an extremely efficient and organised society and what we also always have appreciated so much is that everyone speaks English. I can be a bit sad and upset when friends or acquaintance say: - Well, I didn’t like Singapore so much, it is so artificial and not Asia. This is a common impression we often hear that short time visitors get. I guess when you have lived and experienced Singapore for six years your feelings are quite different. The longer you stay, the more you love it. It has so much to
I love the people for one thing. The many discussions with often quite bright and intelligent taxi drivers - e.g. They love to get into political discussion and always seem interested in your country, where you like to travel or how you find Singapore. Even our teenage daughters ended up in debate and discussion with the drivers during our years. I love the food stall hawker, which is the local food served in a very simple way - often you sit on plastic or wooden stools at the side of the street. I drove myself in Singapore over the years and it was fun and quite easy. The driver’s license test was mainly 50 questions, no practical driving if you had another license already. We didn’t pass the first time I remember and had to redo it. There were three answers to choose from to each
question; two that you felt were easy and one tricky.
Many euphoric water and forestry installations make Singapore a modern, stylish and futuristic city. Mixing with the old and traditional mostly in Chinatown
I love the tropical climate and you can feel that you are close to the equator (only 140km) since it is almost the same temperature all year around. You can see parrots, monkeys and even snakes (cobras and python) in Singapore in various areas. No white tigers any longer though. There is a fabulous movie about Singapore called Tanamera, which during an evening that SWEA (Swedish Women’s Educational Association) arranged, saw backwards; meaning the part 1 and part 2 VHS cassettes were mixed up. We therefore saw the ending first and finished off with the beginning. Quite confusing for me and my friend Inger, who were the only two persons in the group that had read the book. I still laugh when I think about it. “Why do they start with the war and not the British aristocrats playing tennis and having a jolly good time in the black and white houses? But as my British boss used to say “Never mind”. We saw the 3.5 hour long movie and found out at the end about what had actually happened. Our daughters went to the Singapore American School, my husband worked
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for the Swedish packaging company Tetra Pak and I was engaged in SWA, Scandinavian Women Association and also worked. For the girls to go to an international school of that size with almost 3000 students was of course very different. The school had very engaged and professional teachers, 80% of the students were from the USA and there were lots of sports activities after school. Incredible school trips every year to Australia, New Zealand, India or Malaysia. We lived in two lovely houses, since we were lucky enough as expats to come to Asia after the economic crises which meant that housing and rentals had gone down drastically a couple of years before we came. Family life became different. We brought our cat Fiffi from Sweden, a fluffy and furry Norwegian forest cat who was totally terrified of the thunderstorms in the beginning. We had to go looking for her for hours before we found her hiding place. One year later she totally ignored any kind of thunder or lightning. Fiffi was the animal equivalent to us humans when it comes to our adjustment to the heat and humidity. Explanation in five words: you get used to it.
Everyone we met was very friendly to us. I don’t recall that I ever met a rude or unfriendly person during those years anywhere, isn’t that amazing? It was like the perfect world faraway. To live in this small, yet huge super modern, well organised and at the same time charming paradise island in the tropics. Can it possibly be better? The expat community stick together of course as anywhere in the world, we all sit in the same boat but you still felt that you easily could communicate with the locals in Singapore. As the nowadays - a bit lazy, soon to be even older person that I am, I feel a bit ashamed that I haven’t even bothered to learn Thai. When we lived in Istanbul, Turkey I learned and spoke Turkish rather well. I have forgotten most of it now unfortunately. Someone here in Bangkok said to me:- Life is short. Use and spend your time here to do something else. They won’t be able to understand you anyway. These words didn’t exactly encourage me to sign up for those lessons and it felt like the
“easy way” not to. But I do admire when I sometimes hear foreigners speak Thai All respect to them! Back to my stories about Singapore and what I love about the city. I like the braveness in the architecture for example that we noticed early on. In Sweden it is the quite the opposite. Except for Turning Torso in Malmö and maybe a few more, there are not many exciting modern buildings to explore. Nowadays Bangkok follows but Singapore was early. Singapore is a comparably safe place to live in, which is extremely valuable these days. When I volunteered for SWA I used to organise study visits and among the most interesting ones were to the Parliament House, the Highest Court, Bukit Timah Police Headquarters and to Changi Prison. Because of the “low
simple. Inexpensive. We used to wake up in the morning and take 3 steps out to have our morning swim. Having a nice Pina Colada on the terrace. After dinner I recall the beach was pitch black, remember trying to find the way back to our house and the only thing that lit up the beach was the moon and lots of firebugs.
crime country identity” I started to be very interested in the subject and wanted to know more and the reason behind it. They have a large scale of undercover policemen. They are there, but you don’t know where. It keeps citizens quite careful, straight I guess. They have zero tolerance of drugs in the country and very high taxes on alcoholic beverages. They are efficient also when it comes to the judiciary, no long detentions before the sentence. Quick and efficient, that’s Singapore in a nutshell. Arriving at Changi Airport is a good example. Less than 20 minutes after you have passed security and passport control and you already stand waiting for your taxicab. And you can still rest assured that you and your entire luggage have been thoroughly scanned in each and every corner. It always surprised us how they manage to do it. We lived in Singapore during the SARS period. That was many weeks of drama and fear. There was body X-ray scanning equipment everywhere measuring your body temperature. If it was above 37.5 degrees you were not allowed in the country or into a shopping mall. You were sent to a hospital for checkup and in worst case the isolation unit. We also lived there during the chicken flu period and I got dengue fever but that is a different story altogether. There are so many spots in Singapore
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and I will mention a few: Arab Street, Little India, Chinatown, Holland Village, Tiong Bahru, Singapore Night Safari, Bird Zoo, Henderson Walk, Mount Faber, Sixth Avenue and hawker stalls, Thomson Road and the Polo Club, Novena area, Singapore Cricket Club, eating at Chimes, satay places around Raffles Place, taking the cable car to Sentosa Island and dine on the beach in the evening, the more classic and luxurious Raffles and Fullerton Hotels, having a drink at 1st Altitude or dine at CéLaVi at the top of Marina Bay Sands hotel to mention a few. My favourite walking trails are McRitchie Reservoir, Botanical Gardens, Bukit Timah and Fort Canning Park. Sentosa Island has changed so much since we lived there. Where Universal Studios is today, we used to take our 10 year old on riding classes. The main attraction was “Underwater World”, a nice golf course and to go up on a hill with some peacock birds and look out over the huge container harbour. When we lived in Singapore and wanted to go on a beach holiday it was one small island we adored and that was Rawa Island. It is a 3 hour drive to Mersing and then a speedboat ride for half an hour. We have been to Rawa seven times and that says a lot. The first time we visited it was simple red cabins with only a ceiling fan to chill the warm nights. You took your shower in a house behind the huts, sharing with others like in a camping area. Charming but very
Today all is different, a different resort with new green beachfront houses, electricity and air conditioning, better food, fresh water, showers in your hut but also much more expensive. One year I also worked at a company called DBC, which is a computerised physiotherapy programme for people with back and neck problems. The clinic was situated in Thomson Medical Clinic - it was a good year and I made friends from former colleagues that I am still in contact with today. I started my own company “MON Secretary Consulting”. You went for a few hours to Ministry of Manpower and registered your company, paid an annual fee and that was it, more or less. It was very easy. During our years in Singapore we travelled a lot during the school holidays like most expats in Asia do. We visited a variety of destinations that have left us with so many good memories to our family. We all feel fortunate and lucky to have experienced this, to travel and see different cultures is a well-spent education for your children and helps keep the family close. If you go far away or just take a weekend around the corner it can be just as good. The company my husband worked for bought a junk, an old wooden boat that we used to borrow and go out on a Sunday into the Singapore straits to places like Turtle Island. Every time I go back to Singapore it feels like I am “coming home” and that must be a good testimonial for the place – don’t you think?
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Following the caboose in Muscat by Scott and Nori Brixen
n Oman, Sultan Qaboos is everywhere. You drive into town from the airport on Sultan Qaboos Street. You visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. Ships call at the Sultan Qaboos Docks. Students get degrees at Sultan Qaboos University. A framed image of the Sultan hangs in every business. His handsome, white bearded, gravely paternal face smiles down from every overpass.
While this may seem odd to Western visitors, it is de rigeur in the Middle East. What makes Sultan Qaboos’ ubiquity unique is that Omanis actually seem to love him. Like Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, Sultan Qaboos is seen as having worked tirelessly for the modernisation of Oman and the betterment of his people. Not once did I hear an Omani make a disparaging remark about him. In contrast, most were adulatory. In 1970, the young Qaboos engineered (with British assistance) a nearly bloodless palace coup, overthrowing his father. At the time, Oman was largely closed to outsiders and still described as ‘medieval’ by some commentators. The growing lucre from oil and gas deposits discovered within the prior decade had enriched only a few. There were only six kilometres of paved roads and very limited electrification. The new Sultan immediately set about changing that, spending heavily on infrastructure, healthcare and education. In the first year of his reign, Sultan Qaboos abolished slavery in Oman. This decree was very significant when you consider that historically, Omani sultans were the kingpins of the east African slave trade, operating from bases in Zanzibar and Lamu Islands. He also declared freedom of religion in Oman, and 90 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
Turandot at the Opera House, “a very even financed the construction of Christian churches and Hindu temples. odd but pleasant experience”. I could have sat and stared at the elaborately “Caboose! Caboose!” the boys shrieked carved and painted ceilings for hours. Unfortunately, it was too late to go every few minutes. We were playing inside. And while we had hoped to “Spot the Sultan”, an improvised catch a performance, like other opera version of “Slug Bug” without the houses in countries not known for punching. I had taught them that the their love of operas, the schedule was Sultan’s name was the same as the last carriage in a train, spelling be damned. somewhat sparse. These ‘moronic devices’ as my father *** likes to call them (‘mnemonic’ being too difficult to remember) really In theory, Muscat is an easy city work. I also taught them the names to understand: it stretches down a of the two countries (Yemen, Oman) long, narrow coastal strip hemmed as the exclamations of two Jamaicans in by a parallel ridge of mountains; concluding an arm wrestling match. and there are only a few main eastwest highways that cross its length. It may come as a surprise to you - it In practice, however, Muscat is certainly did to me - that Airbnb maddening to navigate, particularly its had already penetrated Oman. We older and more culturally interesting spent our first night in an apartment enclaves. Driving from the airport to building opposite the Royal Opera our accommodation, Nori and I were House. A few days later, we stayed in a house in Nizwa. And during our last both struck by the Californian-ness of ‘New’ Muscat: the dry mountains, two nights in Muscat we relaxed in a wonderful, expatriate focused housing the palm trees, the colourful homes, complex (swimming pool! Kids trick- the cleanliness and prosperity and the or-treating!) Do a simple search for ‘Oman’ on Airbnb, and see if you aren’t amazed by the results. On that first night, once the boys were asleep, we slunk out of the apartment and crossed the big intersection. We we wanted to take a quick peek at the Royal Opera House. We passed through the Opera Galleria shopping mall, where only a few expensive cafes and restaurants remained open, and out into to the expansive, marblepaved courtyard behind.
smell of the sea in the air. But later, during our first visit to Muttrah and its famous souk, we were bedevilled by Muscat’s constantly curving highways and confusing off ramps. Here the mountains descended in rugged fingers down into the sea, creating isolated communities built around deep inlets. The only way between these enclaves is around or over those ‘fingers’, which isn’t always possible, or back to the main highway and try the next off ramp! Visually, Muttrah Port was stunning. The blue-tiled dome and minaret of the Al Zawawi Mosque rose exotically above the white low-rise buildings that fronted the corniche. A giant (we assumed royal) yacht sat moored beside the busy docks, while wooden dhows bobbed nearby. On the opposite side of the bay, an old Portuguese fort squatted on a gumdrop-shaped rise. That said, we found Muttrah Souk a little underwhelming compared
“Muscat is an easy city to understand: it stretches down a long, narrow coastal strip hemmed in by a parallel ridge of mountains; and there are only a few main east-west highways that cross its length.”
Opened in 2011, it was a glorious mish-mash of neoclassical and Islamic motifs, a colossal white wedding cake pierced with pointed arches. Except for two guards who resolutely ignored us, all was quiet. Next to the grand entry hall, workers were busy assembling an outdoor stage and seating. A few months earlier, friends of ours had donned formal dress and watched facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 91
to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or the markets of Marrakech. Fresh eyes and noses, however, would find it intoxicating. There were clothing, jewellery, perfume and spice shops for locals, but most of the vendors seemed more keen on selling me a Oman flag or a Sultan Qaboos T-shirt (we bought four), and I recognised wood carvings from Bali and textiles from India. Much more interesting to us was the kaleidoscopic stained glass dome above one intersection inside the souk and the upside down roulette wheel above another. *** It took us three tries to visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. The first time it was closed to non-Muslims and the second time I’d forgotten to bring the boys’ Omani outfits (even though Nori had reminded me at least five times)! But the third time, we were ready, the boys looking very distinguished in their dishdashas and kummas. “You are Muslim?” the guard asked in English as we approached the arched entrance. “Uh, no,” I replied. He knew the answer, but was just being polite. That’s when we noticed that everyone else going in or coming out of that entrance were Omani males. He pointed towards the far side of the complex. A long walk. The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is not only the grandest in Oman, it’s also the only one that non-Muslims can visit. Even then, it’s only for three hours each morning (except Friday) via a special entrance at the back. It was quite an amusing sight, a bunch of white, non-Muslim ladies wearing headscarves having their bags searched for explosives. Payback time. As we roamed the grounds, other visitors kept asking for photos 92 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
with the boys. A friendly group of Malaysian ladies wanted to know all about our family and our journey in Oman. The reaction was shock, as per normal: “Two sets of twins! Oh my goodness!!” While Nori and I admired the exquisite symmetry and detail of the prayer halls and minarets, the boys played “Plants vs Zombies” on our iPad in the shade. Constructed of over 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone, the exterior of the Sultan Qaboos Mosque was a pleasing, monochrome light beige. Only the gold peeking through the stone fretwork of the main dome belied the
“A few days later, we stayed in a house in Nizwa. During our last two nights in Muscat we relaxed in a wonderful, expatriate focused housing complex.” austerity. Otherwise, there was an artful, modern, gilt-free minimalism to the overall design that consciously avoided the showmanship of other Grand Mosques in the region. At least it seemed that way, until we went inside. The sign at the doorway said “Children under 10 not permitted inside the mosque” but the guards just smiled and waved us in. It had to be the Omani outfits. The main prayer hall was breathtaking. Completed in 2001, it was cavernous, heavily marbled and lavishly decorated. The design was simple but the elements were extraordinary: a central dome with an enormous, crystal chandelier hanging from its
centre; four thick, octagonal columns supporting the roof and a rectangular floor covered in one giant, apparently continuous, carpet. As my eyes took in the details, I began to recognise elements that I had seen in Islamic buildings from Grenada to Istanbul and Samarkand. It was a “greatest hits” of Muslim architecture, but with some unique, Omani touches (the intricately carved wooden ceiling, the zig-zagging flutes of the columns) and some concessions to the climate (Death Star like orbs embedded in the columns for A/C). I had the boys sit down on the carpet beside me. I briefly explained the “five pillars” of Islam, pointed out the mihrab and demonstrated how Muslims pray, kneeling and touching my head to the ground three times. Tai and Logan seemed captivated by the idea that five times a day, all over the world, hundreds of millions of Muslims would face Mecca and pray. As I stood up, I felt a hand on a shoulder. An English speaking man, perhaps Egyptian, addressed me warmly. “I was listening to you. It was so nice, you teaching the boys about Islam. Thank you.” *** “So what do you think the chances are of seeing dolphins?” I asked the South Asian tour guide. “Well, yesterday we didn’t see any,” he said in a low voice. “And this morning we didn’t see any. The weather has been bad.” The coastal route to the Bandar al Rowdha Marina had taken us along Muttrah’s Corniche before curving around its tapering headland and entering Old Muscat, a small but historic district of government buildings and museums clustered around the ancient harbour. After
that, we left Muscat behind, the road threading through breaks and over natural passes in the mountains, past numerous bays with tiny settlements. Cresting a hill, we saw the pretty little marina below. Our boat was fast but comfortable. At first it was fun, with Logan standing in the aisle and ‘surfing’ as we bashed through the chop. Thirty minutes later, when we all started to get wet, cold and mildly nauseous, the excited smiles vanished. Our course made no sense to me: first we headed north along the coast, then out towards a craggy, guano-stained island; then further seaward and back again. The captain was on the walkie-talking constantly, chattering despairingly. We had been searching for an hour and a half already.
next decade. I could easily see Oman becoming a Morocco of the Middle East - full of hip hotels and stylish foreign-owned residences. Muscat would be its Marrakech, Salalah its A joyous shout from the bow snapped Essaouira and Jebel Akhdar its Atlas us out of our misery. The glistening, Mountains. The big question, however, arched back of a dolphin broke the was how Oman would function surface of the water to riotous applause. after the Sultan. He was already 77, Another surfaced just behind. Then and hadn’t been well for some time. the ocean was boiling with them, a Though profoundly liberal in an pod of at least 80 dolphins hunting Arabian context, his political power and leaping. The beauty of that scene, was absolute. With no heir to the nature’s wild abundance, brought tears throne, leadership would pass to his to my eyes. The boys were screaming chosen successor. But no one had been and pointing in all directions. All the named as yet. After nearly 50 years of passengers were on their feet, rocking extraordinary leadership, this seemed the boat as they followed the dolphins a dangerous transition. I hoped the from port to starboard. next Sultan would be as deserving as Qaboos of his people’s devotion. We followed the pod for 30 minutes. The smiles had reappeared and we had Love, The Brixens all forgotten about our soaked clothes Scott & Nori, Tai - 8, Logan - 8, Drake and queasy bellies. The captain also - 6, Kiva - 6. looked noticeably relieved. We had all seen dolphins before at aquariums, but to see such a large number in the wild was something special. *** Driving back to the airport under the intermittent gaze of Sultan Qaboos, I wondered how Oman’s economy and tourism would develop over the
Scott & Nori are avid travellers and knowledge seekers who have travelled to 110 plus countries across all 7 continents. Now they’re sharing their wanderlust with their two sets of twin boys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at www.twotwinstwavel.com
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Philippine sea a divers’ haven With its 7,100 plus islands, and dive sites that have been featured prominently in various books, magazines and websites, surely the waters surrounding this archipelago is nothing but breathtaking. by Arlene Rafiq
am not a diver, I can’t swim and have a strong phobia of open water but it did not stop me from taking a boat accompanying my husband or my sons to their dive expeditions. My husband was a dive specialist and master diver and my two sons are also divers and they have been to the best dive sites in the Philippines. My husband takes video underwater so it felt like going underwater with him. I can’t tell you how much beauty I see but can’t feel and it somehow makes me sad that I am losing half of my life. It’s so hilarious to watch divers on the big screen as they do underwater stunts while my husband is shooting the various fish and corals. Diving aficionados will find Philippine water an experience like no other. Splendid beaches, coral reefs and new discovery of 100 plus marine species and it
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is considered home to bio diverse waters on the planet. Batangas which is about 85 kilometres from Manila stands out as the most popular dive destinations because of its proximity to Manila. Layag layag, a Tagalog word for sailing is one of the most popular sites in this area. Divers find it easy to spot some of the most exotic marine creatures in the crystal clear waters. Sombrero Island boasts an extensive reef formation, home to myriad small fish. The reef ’s rocks and walls cracks harbour many types of marine life from turtles and stingrays to a variety of soft corals. Some seek bigger creatures so they go to Mapating Rock which literally means shark infested rock.
The rock is surrounded by shallow area of about 12 metres and ends in a series of drop offs averaging about 40 metres. Divers normally enjoy the unusual natural phenomenon of underwater hot springs emerging from a hollow near Balahibong Manok (chicken feather) Island. This site is home to tuna, Barracuda and white tip sharks. Diving in this island is strictly for professionals due to the very strong currents. A more tourist friendly dive area is Puerto Galera or Port of Galleons, off the northwestern tip of Mindoro Island. In Puerto Galera, one of the main dive sites is the Marina Channel where a 14th century shipwreck was discovered by divers in 1983. The
wreck is now home to blue-spotted rays and Moorish idols. This shipwreck is most often visited by divers who wish to have a more adventurous under water experience. Another island that boasts fantastic dive sites is Cebu, famous for its fine sandy beaches, ancient forts. Exciting night life and friendly hospitable people. The small town of Moalboal is probably the best place for serious divers to set up base camps. From Moalboal, a brief but bumpy ride takes us to Panagsama Beach. The ambiance is relaxed and quiet and relatively uncrowded compared to Puerto Galera obviously designed with tourists in mind. A twenty minute boat ride away is Pescador Island. Night divers love to frequent this island because of the Spanish dancer, snail like creatures that have lost their shells. They are strikingly coloured and more active at night. If touched or gently picked up, they begin to dance a wild wavy movement of body and surrounding skirt. While it’s a delightful sight, this movement is thought to be a warning sign before emission of poison. Getting away from Manila area, one of the most interesting dive strips is to Sulu archipelago on a cruise ship. To me it is a nature lover’s paradise. Divers usually stay for at least five days aboard a cruise ship which has special pump boats
“Getting away from Manila area, one of the most interesting dive strips is to Sulu archipelago on a cruise ship. To me it is a nature lover’s paradise.” to ferry experienced divers to more exotic dive spots. This place appeals only to the most experienced, adventurous and avid divers due to safety reasons. Fishing and seaweed farming are common occupations in the surrounding islands where the stilt houses of residents perch above the sea. The thrilling and exhilarating adventure of accompanying a dive expedition exceeded my dreams. The whole experience on the boat with professional divers, underwater photographers and sportswriters opens my eyes to the beauty outside
urban city life. With hundreds of exotic marine creatures and the tortoise blue sea, the idyllic beauty and serenity of Philippine waters is a gratifying experience. Indeed the Philippines is endowed with a natural beauty on a par with the rest of the world.
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A Carioca way of life by Maria Eduarda Souza
iving in a ‘postcard’ city brings with it certain issues. Maybe that’s why I understand the fame of grumpy Parisians, for example. But, unlike the Parisians, being a Carioca is synonymous of good humour and camaraderie. Rio de Janeiro should be considered the city of happiness. Over the last decade Rio was transformed by social, political and economic factors. From the successful zero waste policy, to the paradoxical Olympics, to the ex governor being arrested after scandalous corruption schemes.
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Carioca’s have proved their resilience and Rio is now home for more authentic minds, passionate entrepreneurs and curious travellers. Everyday Rio Not only of carnival, soccer and beach lives Rio de Janeiro. We do love these things, but in our day to day we enjoy hidden bars, an intriguing art scene, discreet beaches and amazing views. I am breaking my pledge and releasing here some little secrets spots only a true Carioca knows how to enjoy. Rio is home for six million people and a few more who adopted the lifestyle considering themselves now Carioca’s. This is the thing about Rio, doesn’t matter where you were born and bred, Carioca is a lifestyle. We are very proud and very critical about Rio. If you praise the view, we will exalt saying it is ‘the best view in the world’. If you say it’s dangerous,
we won’t not deny it. But we treat Rio like we treat our son, only we can speak badly about it. Rio inspires its locals to pursue a way of life that honours its beauty. The Carioca Pedro Peracio, photographer who illustrates this story, is guilty of this pleasure. Through his camera we can see Rio’s charm and purity. Hungry? Cidade Maravilhosa, the wonderful city, is an authentic place, its trustworthy. We do not believe in imitating other sites, we actually hate when people do that. In Rio de Janeiro nobody offers you what you already have experienced. Here, you either become Carioca or waste a lot of time searching for a piece of your land. Its true that we have good Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and French restaurants. However they all embraced the city and transformed the
food in a Carioca way of serving. Speaking of it, if you would like to have an international experience of Japanese food you must try our delicious Yumê. Don’t forget to ask for a table in the back, where you sit comfortably on the ground immersed by beautiful plants and fishes. If you want a taste of ‘home’ and Thai food stop at Nam Thai in Leblon. Or if you are a pasta person and enjoy great Italian food the best choice is La Botticella where the chef Giancarlo Junyent runs a mixed of classic cuisine with contemporary tastes. These restaurants have a local clientele and probably are not yet in the tourism guides. Still in the matter of food, but now for some true Carioca way of eating visit BB Lanches. Doesn’t matter if its breakfast, lunch or dinner, Carioca’s meals are healthy juices and sandwiches. BB Lanches is the
sweetheart juice house of the locals around Leblon, you will always see it buzzing with charming people. There are 28 different varieties of fruit juices and almost one hundred sandwiches, snacks and salads. My golden tip is the traditional açai smoothy with a delicious pastel, which is a very common Carioca treat. If you enjoy it, make sure to visit Bar do Horto to have the shrimp pastel with tapioca, some say is the best one in town. Rio is for everyone The city also conceals some incredible activities that involve contact with nature, awareness and social and environmental engagement. If you are looking for a true, down to earth experience, you should go to the Vidigal community, one of the coolest favelas in Rio. The community faces the ocean and is located just next to Leblon, the posh neighbourhood.
These are some of the interesting things to observe in Rio, how the fanciest people and the less privileged live very close to one another and interact in an unique way. Carioca’s have the vocation to be happy, doesn’t matter if you were born in the favelas or in the fancy buildings in front of the beach. We all walk around in flip flops and very little clothes. We are traditional creatures, we go to the same bars and restaurants for 10 years and we get a bit upset when they raise the prices because the tourists can pay more. When we think of our landscape we swear we are the luckiest people in the world. And who’s going to say that isn’t true? In Rio you even become more religious. Christ, the Redeemer, looks at you every day with open arms. After a while, you may even start liking the guy. When you meet a Carioca, we won’t
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invite you to our home for tea. We will invite you to the streets and, probably, for a cold beer. It’s curious. But the ‘street’ is so beautiful that locking ourselves at home is just a waste of life. Everything is an opportunity to be with the City. The energy and lifestyle of Rio gives the place the quality of entity. To get a glimpse at this sensation watch a sunrise at the top of Dois Irmãos Hill. What a view! Morro Dois Irmãos, literally two brothers hill, faces the magnificent Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the rainforest and is home to the Vidigal community. Recently the track that takes you to the top of the hill was revitalised and became a treasured walk above sea level. Its an easily accessible trail that starts at the soccer field at favela do Vidigal. Don’t worry! This is a very friendly and family driven community. To get to the trail you can use the transport available at the entrance of the favela, vans or mototaxis. I recommend the mototaxis
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and to pay the non-community price, its cheap for you and makes a big difference for them. The ride up is fast and will give you a chance to glance at the houses and see some locals walking around the streets. The hike lasts around 45 minutes and you should where closed shoes, its fairly easy and the feeling you achieve when arriving at the top is unutterable. Definitely the best view to start the day before going to work. If you are the adventurous type, do like us, try going for the sunrise. Its an extraordinary and magical show of nature and when you get down to the ‘real world’ is still 8 or 9am. When Friday comes the city shifts. Its a gift of changing the environment without touching anything. The working Rio becomes a vacation town. Altinha, a game where you must keep the soccer ball high, dominate the shores of the sea. The clothes are literally gone, the smiles get brighter, the sun, the soccer, the samba, the Rio. It wouldn’t be a Carioca trip if a swim in the sea wasn’t involved.
“These are some of the interesting things to observe in Rio, how the fanciest people and the less privileged live very close to one another and interact in an unique way.” Hot spot Prainha, which literally means little beach is the number one refuge spot on our coast. One of the favourite beach for surfers, Prainha draws attention to good waves and natural beauty. With 700 metres of white sand, protected by hills and covered by Atlantic Rainforest it pays to arrive before midday to soak up the sun, which lurks behind the mountains in the middle of late afternoon. You must take a taxi or a car to get there. Don’t forget to drink Mate Leão and eat biscoito Globo, a biscuit which started in Rio in the fifties and now is a symbol of our coast. Make sure you carry your garbage with you when you leave. Prainha its a very ‘play by the locals rules’ kind of beach, for example, in Rio dogs are not allowed in the sand or the sea. At Prainha there are dozens of dogs playing around and if you are young and single its an excellent point for flirting. After I have informed you of the best local places, I will briefly mention one traditional stop every tourist who landed in Rio after 2016 should make. The Museu do Amanhã, Museum of Tomorrow. The museum is dedicated to explore, think and design the possibilities of building a different future. A place to get inspired and understand the trends of the past and present and explores possible scenarios for the next 50 years from the
perspectives of sustainability and coexistence. With immersive environments, audiovisual facilities and games where content is always up to date with scientific data and analysis from institutions around the world, this is a ‘must go’ for the whole family. A visit to the museum is a great opportunity to reflect on our habits and the world we are leaving for the next generations. Carioca’s are not only made of sand and sea, we also have an alluring contemporary art scene. A walk around the Horto neighbourhood guarantees great surprises. The streets are filled will studios from local upcoming artists. A new ‘point’ that definitely deserves a visit is Jacaranda, a place for the thinking and production of art. The house holds exhibitions, meetings and courses, a space conceived by the desire of artists to meet, exchange ideas and propose actions. With a very different approach Carpintaria is also one of the favourite Carioca’s art spaces. The gallery represents 42 Brazilian and foreign artists, who deal with different media and poetics. Definitely a visit that will inspire and challenge creative minds. Tips And while you are immersed in the whole ritual of a Carioca’s way of life. Feel free to hug someone you just met, call the waiter by his name, buy
a complete stranger a beer just to make them smile and accept all locals invitations to share a table. To help you get ready for your trip, keep in mind that Carioca’s don’t make dates to meet their friends, we arrive at the usual place and they are already there. We appear ‘around sometime’ never on the dot. Sunday is Sunday, don’t expect us to have appointments. In summer we eat lunch at four and dinner at ten. And relax, why the rush? We dance beautifully, work hard, walk slow, talk fast and drink even faster. In 5 minutes we become friends from childhood and in the second encounter we hug you and give you nicknames. Rio is the land of the flipflop, where Havaianas established their soul. We are free, devoid of any sense of traditional sophistication. But we are happy and we live in the most beautiful city in the world.
Maria Eduarda Souza is a writer and social ecologist. She was born and bred in Rio de Janeiro and is now based in Bangkok. www.mariaeduardasouza.com Photography Pedro Peracio www.pedroperacio.com All restaurants and places mentioned can be easily found on Google. For updated information (address, phone and open hours) please check online.
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Nepal: Land of dreams
“Combining travel with my medicinal plant studies has been a different journey than planned and now even my way of depicting and area has differed.” by Margaret Elizabeth Johnston ND
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aos, Malaysia, Bali (I can’t really say Indonesia since I just stayed on Bali!) and now Nepal, is where I find myself today! Combining travel with my medicinal plant studies has been a different journey than planned and now even my way of depicting and area has differed. A very personalised painting with lots of symbolism isn’t what I normally paint, however, perhaps being in the land of dreams, fantasy and heights has inspired something inside me to do something a bit different. Nepal is a beautiful country to visit and as I find myself here, as my SE Asian journey has continued, I enjoyed creating a painting that I felt encompassed quite a few interests of mine; the lotus flower, Tibetan prayer flags, water and dreams! I included dreams here because sometimes when one is in a magical place, magical dreams may come. There is a system called “honouring your dreams”, which means if you awake with a strong dream, you write it down, as much as you can remember, and by virtue of this action you have a tendency to remember more of your dreams. The psyche realises you are “honouring” them and even more meaningful and stronger dreams will come to guide you. Being in Nepal is giving me space to do just this! Not coming for trekking brings its own gifts. Katmandu is a lively city to say the least, however, I have based myself in Pokhara, where a lot of trekkers come to do the Annapurna circuit or parts of it. There are a few lakes in the area, the main one called Phewa, where you can
rent a boat and paddle out for the day, crossing the lake to the base of the World Peace Pagoda way up high on the mountain, do a small hike to it, and have an all-encompassing view of the city Pokhara. One can also rent a scooter or bicycle and cruise around, eat at the local restaurants on the lake and enjoy light nightlife as the sun sets. There are a few day hikes, loads of good bookstores and coffee shops and a general relaxed wellbeing permeates this town. I joined a yoga centre/spa called Holy Garden that not only has traditional style yoga available, but 2 sound healings a day with Tibetan bowls and a lot of personalised spa treatments by a local group of Nepalese which keeps prices low but quality high. It is a nice change to the westernised expat coming in and creating something that you have had before. You get the “real-deal” with these folks. Check out Denny Lama if you have a chance! The bliss I receive after a yoga and sound session is divine, then a “spa” treatment with local herbs with steam and afterwards having medicinal herbal tea feels so authentic and natural that I use the centre a few times a week. Denny is also a good contact to learn about local day hikes and villages to visit and combines some yoga and herbal knowledge along the way. If you wish to stay in a traditional Buddhist Monastery for donation please contact him also, it is on the hill in Pokhara and has rooms and surveys the little lakeside town. (I receive nothing in return for discussing people or companies, I honestly just have real authentic information on what is true and good vs just another promotion. I have travelled enough to know surface commodities vs deep traditional healing techniques and been in
“ There is a system called “honouring your dreams”, which means if you awake with a strong dream, you write it down, as much as you can remember, and by virtue of this action you have a tendency to remember more of your dreams.” the holistic health business over 25 years myself so please accept my suggestions freely and joyfully!)
ibetan Prayer Flags represent the spreading of goodwill and compassion by the Tibetan monks into the “all-pervading space” of the world. The colours of the flags represent the five elements; blue symbolises the sky and space, white the air and wind, red fire, green water, and yellow earth. Lotus flowers are forever a symbol of strength and endurance, beauty and divine inspiration as they push up through the mud and blossom into a beautiful flower. Both in Nepal and Thailand the lotus flower is used in many designs and symbols. I have found it to be one of the most popular flower’s used in SE Asia and have had fun painting them a few times. This one example was inspired by a friend that actually goes into his swimming pool with his underwater camera, having someone throw flowers into his pool as he snaps away.
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if one comes here for a trek and puts all that effort into bringing or buying the right gear, deciding the trail, picking a company or on your own, you allow yourself time to not only enjoy the trek at your leisure, but make sure to stay in the town of Pokhara on either end. Tea houses along the way are a pleasure to stay in and getting to meet local mountain people is part of the experience! For anyone wanting to experience the great Himalayas by not just trekking but actually living, Pokhara is the place to be for any creative writing, thinking, personal explorations and fresh insights. There are inexpensive lovely hotels on the lake and AirB&B is the way to go for longer than 2-3 week stays. One of the refreshing things I enjoy here is also the relaxed clothing options. Since there are a lot of trekking type folk passing through, I feel more relaxed wearing shorts and t shirts than I normally would around town. Make sure to pop into some of the art galleries that have incredible hand painted Thangka’s, a Tibetan form of art
I saw the pics on Facebook and thought what a fun idea and view of flowers… I just had to try a painting with some of his images!
As I write this I feel a bit confused as to if this is an art article, travel article or personal journal entry! Something I have realised is not all trips have to be one thing, i.e., a trek, a scholastic study, a working holiday, a beach read, etc. We are a bit of this and a bit of that all the time, combining your joys and 102 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
passions into a journey is always a fulfilling way to see the world. Knowing what you like and don’t like yet perhaps challenging yourself to something new, is a good way forward. After hanging out in Pokhara, I have learned that if you do want to go trekking, it is easy to change your trip to suit yourself. I have found that on some of the intense hikes, you may want to stop and stay in a village longer than the average stay and that is OK as long as you know you may have
to be patient with your guide or Sherpa when they want to carry on. Just make sure they know ahead of time that you may want to take your time. For those that don’t need a guide or Sherpa, you can consider the idea that you’re not necessarily trekking, you’re just taking a walkabout… granted, a high and steep one, but a walkabout no less! Viewing it this way, you’re just having a lovely time along the way without the main goal to go up and down. I recommend
“ Something I have realised is not all trips have to be one thing, i.e. a trek, a scholastic study, a working holiday, a beach read, etc. We are a bit of this and a bit of that all the time, combining your joys and passions into a journey is always a fulfilling way to see the world.” that is painted mandala style. The imagery up close is so detailed, and it is wonderful to speak with the actual artists that paint them. Local food is very inexpensive and healthy, local people smile at you and are very pleased to have you enjoy their village. I feel no pressure here to buy as I have other places in SE Asia and recommend a Himalayan trip for your itinerary soon! May you cultivate love in your home and family life this season! Namaste! Margaret has been on the road for 14 months and has been circling around Thailand getting to know other SE Asian countries as she studies medicinal plants and local indigenous ways. Painting watercolours that represent her experiences has been a creative process along with learning new forms of bodywork, yoga and healing techniques. She is now in India and can be followed on her website through most forms of social media, enjoy! www.mejcreations.com facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 103
Summer cricket down under by Neil Brook
t’s like walking into a concert or a European football (soccer) match in full swing. The Big Bash cricket season is underway down under throwing the traditional, all in white cricket, with its rules and five day marathons under the bus. The crowds are enthusiastic, energetic and loud. And that’s just the kids… Growing up I remember playing cricket although I couldn’t really bowl - I couldn’t bat for that matter. I was the 12th man more often than not running on with orange segments and water. I can’t say I enjoyed it however my Dad was the coach, not that that really mattered. Or maybe it did? It wasn’t my strong suit. I was better at athletics and swimming. Anyway, those were the days when test cricket was the only game, five days of agonising drawn out tactics, at least I’m sure that was the plan whilst players in white played the very British version of the game and the Ashes were the holy grail. Which by the way they still are. Fast forward to 2018 and I now love the game, but not as it once was. Nowadays cricket matches need clarification. Test matches still linger as the traditional version, and given the crowds during the recent Aussie summer show no signs of fading into the background. Quite the opposite. The 2017/18 Ashes series drew massive sellout crowds for every one of the five match sessions and even though the Aussies thrashed the Poms three nil in the first three matches, the final two were sellouts. At the same time ‘The Big Bash’ was travelling the country being played out in amphitheatres, the teams
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like ancient gladiators stirring the roaring crowds that packed stadiums to the brim. Proof that the game is once again luring crowds and selling out matches faster than the latest pop sensations. This lightning fast, action packed style of the game has grabbed my attention and that of the world. The Big Bash League, yes it’s a league now, has garnered support and fired up a new generation of fans. It pits state against state in a limited overs (20 for each side) slog fest. Summers visiting my parents in Brisbane involve nights watching cricket in front of the TV and it’s true to say that the big bash on the telly is one thing, at a match it is another all together. We’re off to The Gabba (the home of Queensland cricket) for a home team match, against someone else! I’m soon to discover, on home turf, it’s Queensland first and to be fair on every home ground the local teams are supported by vocal crowds and the opposition are, well, the opposition. I’m a passionate Queenslander and so are most of the 42,000 sellout crowd. I’ve been psyching myself up for Kentucky Fried Chicken (they are the sponsors) and cold beer. The beers flow freely but the Colonel’s chicken is nowhere in sight. The fried food and hotdog stalls are firmly wedged into the framework of the building with prices disproportionate to the quality and quantity of their produce. A tiny gourmet burger joint is tucked into a corner that you’d miss if you blinked or you were on the other side of the stadium. After a lamb burger, beer will provide all the nutrition we need to
sustain us over the next 3-4 hours. OK we did succumb to a bucket of chips (French fries) during a mid match munchie break. Queensland bat first, the crowd is in full voice and the buckethead army chant. Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, empty, no chicken, are handed out and worn by the masses on their heads as noisemakers and banners are given out for free at the entrance. Teal and white, the colours of the Brisbane Heat cover everything, including the players. All of the teams have names… Sydney Thunder, Hobart Hurricanes, Perth Scorchers… you get the picture. I have no idea what the other teams strip is. I guess we’ll find out when they walk onto the pitch and this will be the only way you would know there is another team playing. Everything is teal and white. In this game the players are colour coded. Bright pinks, blues, orange, reds… not a white outfit it in sight. However the ball is white as the game progresses into the night. The traditional red has long been delegated to the tests since the launch of day/night matches. You can’t keep your eye on the ball if you can’t see it!
“While the crowd are having fun so are the players, sometimes baiting the onlookers who more often than not bite back.”
A Master of Ceremonies leads the night much like a US Presidential candidate rallying their supporters and the home crowd goes wild. Music blares out and hands rise and fall as Mexican waves fly around the crowd. We’re getting the full force of the celebrations and fireworks crack, whistle and fly into the air when sixes are scored as the MC and the crowd are finding their voices. ‘Let’s have another six!’ teases the MC … “Yes!” screams the crowd. Suddenly someone, our someone, is caught out. “Boo!” hiss the crowd. The amount of runs scored in twenty overs is impressive as teams literally slam the ball all over and out of the park. There are strict penalties to keep up the pace and keep the bowlers moving. We achieve a reasonable score and for the other team, the chase is on. They score a six … no fireworks, “Boo!”screams the crowd. Someone, one of ‘them’ gets out. “Yes!” screams the crowd as fireworks roar into the sky! Completely biased and so utterly engaging. Although it has to be said, sportsmanship reigns supreme and 50s, 100s or milestones are acknowledged with applause and cheers no matter who has the bat. The atmosphere is electric and Queensland will certainly have their share of torments when they attempt to concentrate on someone else’s home turf. While the crowd are having fun so are the players, sometimes baiting the onlookers who more often than not bite back. It’s well intentioned banter or maybe it’s the Aussie spirit where no one takes things personally or too seriously, although the game is taken very seriously indeed. Towards the final few overs it’s clear the home team will be victorious and we head to the bus stop before the final ball, to beat the crowds. The organisers are exceptionally well organised and free buses and trains ferry people to and from the match from all over the city. This game has awakened a new generation of cricket lovers. The crowds are full of kids and this is truly a family night out. This is a new tradition, a new cricket. However it has ignited a love of the game is all its forms and whether it’s the big bash, day/night 50/50 matches or tests, it has ensured generations to come will fall in love with a game that has been bringing people and counties together for over five hundred years. facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 105
Travel won’t fade for at least another 20 years according to WebMD. Plan is a strange word for it So what’s our plan? First, we’re going to relax a bit. Starting in March, we will embark on a 6 month global family odyssey (“The Big Twip”) that will take in Koh Kradan and Lampang/Phrae/Nan (Thailand), Komodo/Flores/Bintan/Batam (Indonesia), Palawan/Coron/Luzon (Philippines), Iran, Lebanon, Umbria and Sardinia (Italy), Corsica (France), Portugal and England/Wales/Scotland.
How do T you say goodbye to a continent?
he answer, of course, that you can’t. We’ve spent half our lives in Asia. We met each other here. Our four boys were born here. Over two decades we’ve made friends, built careers, learned languages and explored this huge, diverse, amazing continent from Uzbekistan to Sri Lanka, Sumatra to Kyushu and Harbin to Kathmandu.
by Scott and Nori Brixen
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But we need to go home. For a lot of different reasons. Anyone who has been an expatriate - anywhere knows how exciting and frightening homecoming can be. We’ve changed a lot in twenty years and so has the USA.
But this trip is more than just a vacation. We’ll be building up knowledge, content and contacts for our new business “Two Twins Twavel”. We want to build a family travel brand around us - like Anthony Bourdain but with kids and chicken nuggets. It’s probably a pipe dream, but we’d like to eventually get our own TV show! Our mission is to encourage and enable adventurous and educational family travel. And that mission includes so many aspects: planning and research, learning a language, finding experienced guides, etc. Having visited over 120 countries and all 7 continents, and speaking a number of different languages, we think we’re well qualified.
And we know what we’ll miss too: wine dinners with people from eight countries, an explosion of flavour from a US$1 bowl of noodles, endless summer (not Scott), having in-house help and ‘routine absurdity’!
After the trip, we’ll be moving to Laguna Beach, California. (located between San Diego and Los Angeles.) One of the state’s best public elementary schools is a few blocks down the road from us. Nori will be helping her mother with property management. Scott will be Mr Mom for a while. We’ll both be pushing hard on Tw3 and Scott is also hoping to finish a few books that he’s been working on. So we’ll still be keeping very busy!
So it’s goodbye to Asia - but not forever. Asia is literally in our blood and the memories of our experiences in Asia
So please: sign up on our website (www.twotwinstwavel.com) to receive our trip updates, ‘like’ our Facebook
We know what we miss: our immediate family who all live in the USA, old friends, open space, hiking in cool, dry weather; winter (not Nori); being able to find clothes that fit (not Nori); Costco and Cool Ranch Doritos.
page and follow our Instagram feed. As before, Scott is the team writer and Nori the team photographer. Now we’ve got four unruly props as well! Please, please, please - share our accounts with anyone you know who has kids and wants travel inspiration. The more people we have tracking our travels, the easier it will be for us to seek sponsorship from tourism ministries, airlines, hotels and tour companies. The boys The boys’ new obsession is Minecraft. Since it’s basically a combination of digital Legos with an adventure game we’re actually encouraging it. Tai was ecstatic to receive Minecraft-based novels for Christmas. On Saturday, when we allow them to watch ‘non educational’ shows on TV for a few hours, it’s usually Minecraft-related videos they choose, such as watching the celebrity gamer “Stampy Cat” playing Minecraft, or Minecraft music video parodies like “How do I craft this again?” (When will I see you again?)
Tai is getting so tall and skinny that Grandma Joan started calling him “Chopstick”. Like his Mom, he’s very social (he arranges his own playdates). Like his Dad, he loves reading and soccer. He continues to do well in a challenging trilingual school and is mature beyond his years. His grasp of complex situations is so adult that I sometimes forget I’m talking to an 8 year old. Logan “the Beastmaster” continues to astound us with his knowledge of animals, though lately he’s been focused on birds. One of his hobbies is constructing realistic Lego models of birds after just a quick look at an image in one of his books. He’s also a bookavore and has developed a stunning vocabulary. He has started taking piano lessons and is a natural. There aren’t many things that can keep Logan in one place for longer than five minutes so we’re delighted to find another one. Drake is now our “little banker”. He brings his whale shark coin purse with him everywhere, and is often found recounting his loot. Lucky for our five year old future financier, he’s
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excellent at math and never forgets when someone owes him money. “Kiva, remember I gave you my Lego mini figure yesterday? Where’s my 10B?” Drake is also a real bulldog on the soccer pitch. He’s so solid (feels impossibly heavily) when you lift him and has this baby baritone voice - but still can’t say his ‘r’s! Kiva continues to be Mr Mischievous. There is nothing he loves better than provoking his brothers with a sneaky ‘poke-and-run’. Thankfully, we hear his high-pitched whine less and less these days now that he has (almost) learned how to lose. And we owe that to Thomas the Tank Engine UNO, which Kiva wants to play constantly. Not surprisingly, his favourite card to play is the “+2”, which forces the next player to draw extra cards. He never remembers to shout “UNO” when he has one card left, but we always let him get away with it. OK, he hasn’t really learned how to lose yet. 2017 travels Our travel schedule (for pleasure and work) in 2017 was frankly insane. I’d be surprised if we were Bangkok for even half the weekends. Scott was in London, Stockholm, Munich, Frankfurt, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne. Nori organised a 2 day yoga retreat for 8 friends at our villa in Bintan, Indonesia and travelled with her friend, Victoria, to Luang Prabang, Laos. We did a road trip to Cambodia. We were in the Maldives one week and in Okinawa the next. By my count, the Brixen family visited 17 countries in 2017, 7 of them new for the boys. Sometimes it’s exhausting. But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it. The travelling year started with a memorable trip to Grossarl, Austria in April. It was the boys’ first experience of snow and skiing and they loved it. Logan is still showing his first place slalom trophy to anyone who visits 108 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
Thank you Thailand What an incredible time to be in Thailand. A few weeks after we arrived the Bangkok shutdown was underway and the major intersections were impassible. We’ve been under military rule the entire time we’ve been here! We will never forget the death of the beloved King Rama IX, his one year mourning period, and his extraordinary cremation rites.
“Kiva continues to be Mr Mischievous. There is nothing he loves better than provoking his brothers with a sneaky ‘poke-and-run’. Thankfully, we hear his high-pitched whine less and less these days now that he has (almost) learned how to lose.” us. Then we drove across the Alps into stunning northern Italy (Sűdtirol/Alto Adige) and explored Cortina d’ Ampezzo, Bolzano and Brixen! Looping back north, we spent a few days in little Liechtenstein (basically half an Alpine valley) before flying out of Munich, Germany. In October we flew from Bangkok to Naha, Okinawa. After a few very fun days on the main island (visiting the mind blowing Churaumi Aquarium, a night out on the town with Nori’s friend Miltos, driving across a series of bridges to Ikei Island where Scott did a scary bridge jump) we took a flight to the southernmost archipelago in Japan - the Yaeyama Islands. Most gaijin have never heard of the place, but the Yaeyamas are Japan’s Hawaii: a sub-tropical wonderland of beaches,
But we have absolutely loved our four years in Thailand. The Kingdom is extraordinary in so many ways: the diversity of its landscapes, the warmth of its people, the piquancy of its cuisine and the pain of its massages. Something tells me that we’ll live here again. But for now, it’s time to close this chapter in our lives, overstuff our backpacks and see the world as a family! Love, The Brixens Scott & Nori, Tai - 8, Logan - 8, Drake - 6, Kiva - 6.
Scott & Nori are avid travellers and knowledge seekers who have travelled to 110 plus countries across all 7 continents. Now they’re sharing their wanderlust with their two sets of twin boys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at www.twotwinstwavel.com
palm trees, emerald water and chilledout, tanned locals. Using Ishigaki Town as a base, we took a ferry to a different island every day. Finally, just before Christmas, we flew to Ranong in southern Thailand to begin a journey that Scott had been dreaming about for two decades: a cruise through the 800 islands of Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago. Together with our friends the McTaggarts, we chartered the Sea Gipsy for an unforgettable cruise. Each day we kayaked or paddled or swam to uninhabited islands, played on beaches that squeaked and snorkelled above enormous coral heads teeming with marine life. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we spent three days at the brand new Boulder Bay Eco-Resort. facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 109
Art & Culture masses and morphed into a status symbol that everyone could experience.This was also mirrored in Thailand some years ago and now there is a plethora of wine bars and events that are enjoyed and accessed by all. The same phenomenon is happening with art here, there are just a few art galleries, museums or public art spaces in Bangkok, and most of them exclusively showcase local art but the art wave have started. “I feel a responsibility to bestow my experience in the international art arena to promote international art in public spaces for the community to enjoy. To promote art programmes in schools or to just attract people to place original art on their wish list to enjoy it at home with all the family”. I want to share one of the notes we received after our exhibits, it describes perfectly the creative effect that art produces. “We greatly enjoyed our visit to La Femme and students came back brimming with ideas” Michael Case of Harrow International School. pearheaded primarily by working diligently to cultivate Art initiatives encourage influential millennials and an appreciation for art. Her youth to develop creative skills women; an exclusive group influence as a socialite in this that are crucial in today’s job of art collectors has emerged in 4 years is putting “fine art” on market. Art helps us express our Bangkok. This group of young, the map in a way that has never values, it builds bridges between well educated and globetrotting been done before and redefining cultures and brings us together Thais is creating a thriving art Thai society desires. regardless of ethnicity, religion There is a scene from the ground up as Astrid shared with us that or age. Art helps to transform “The art wave happening monumental they express themselves as the communities. in Bangkok is the same shift taking international art lovers that phenomenon that happened in place within they are. Madame Astrid, an art the USA 30 years ago with wine Thai society, aficionado, long time art appreciation, people were not driven by consultant for Fortune 500 accustomed to drinking wine in the appreciation companies in the US and the the US, and preferred local beer and cultivation wife of the H.E. Ambassador until wine companies started of original of Colombia Andelfo Garcia promoting and importing fine fine art. in Thailand, she has been wines. First, the elite started by Madame travelling around the world consuming it because it was Astrid Garcia discovering talented emerging a prestigious symbol, but it soon became available to the (Amaya) artists for the last 30 years and
New wave collectors shake up Thai society
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The myth that Thai people are not interested in art and that those with disposable income only purchase luxury fashion brands in lieu of fine art is being challenged. High profile millennials, businessmen and most notably influential women from all walks of life are joining up with seasoned art collectors like Kris Narongdej (CEO of KPN) Prayudh Mahagitsiri (CEO PM Group), Vinchen Phongsalthn (CEO Premier Group), have all participated in recent art auctions that have donated significant funds for different organisations. In November 2016, Madame Astrid organised the first ever exhibit of international art at The Museum of Chulalongkorn, which exceeded expectations on many levels. Guests who attended the opening night were treated to a surprise international “Art Auction” which was the first of its kind in Thailand. One of the three Colombian artists who exhibited was sold out, and the other two artists sold 50% of their art. This is significant because 90% of the art sold was purchased by local Thais, which
clearly indicates a prodigious shift in mindset. This was just one of many art appreciation initiatives that Madame Astrid has been working to include many important players as top local and international schools, shopping centres, museums and the government. Leading companies such as as the Central Group has already engaged sponsoring various cultural meaningful exhibitions as the Augmented Reality “Frozen Planet” in January where leading international schools participated bringing groups of parents and students to enjoy and learn about “Save the Arctic Animals”. Astrid is also working with leading international schools in an ambitious international art programme called “Creative Education”. The beauty of original art
is that it stimulates the senses, evokes emotions and soothes the soul. Art is a window that allows us to reflect and express ourselves in a unique and unparalleled way. There are no boundaries defining why we love a particular piece over another. An original piece of art can be the soul of a house, the centrepiece of an office, or a highly personalised expression of one’s external emotion. As the famous artist Thomas Merton once said “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Although the Bangkok art scene is a burgeoning one, it takes the whole society to embrace art education in daily lives. This is an invitation to all to visit art exhibits and museums, purchase art and sponsor art events.
“High profile millennials, businessmen and most notably influential women from all walks of life are joining up with seasoned art collectors.”
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Art & Culture
The Expat Book Club review
‘Makeup artist: “Do you like a smokey eye?” Eleanor: “I don’t like anything to do with smoking.”’
by Rebecca Hilton
“Eleanor is hilarious. Her clear eyed and objective observations made me laugh out loud more than once – I ended up reading bits to my husband and kids because they were just so funny.”
leanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, by Gail Honeyman is the authors first novel. Eleanor is an outsider and an oddball. Her life is ordered, logical and utterly empty. Despite working in an office full time she is completely isolated and unaware of how lonely she is. She spends her weekdays working and avoiding people and at the weekends she buys frozen pizza and two bottles of Vodka – and speaks to no one until Monday. Now, that makes it sound like a thoroughly bleak read. But it isn’t. Eleanor is hilarious. Her clear eyed and objective observations made me laugh out loud more than once – I ended
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up reading bits to my husband and kids because they were just so funny. This for example, when Eleanor has decided to improve her appearance, ‘Makeup artist: “Do you like a smokey eye?” Eleanor: “I don’t like anything to do with smoking.”’ Eleanor decides to makes some changes in her life when she falls in love with a local pop star. But the real changes occur when she starts to let people into her life. As the novel progresses we learn more about Eleanor’s past... I defy anyone to read this book without their eyes welling up at least once! Gail Honeyman’s story also reads like a work of fiction.
Turning forty gave her the motivation to write a novel. She wrote ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ whilst working full time. Before the novel was finished she won the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award and has since won the Costa first novel prize. The film rights have been purchased by Reese Witherspoon’s production company – causing much speculation among the book
club as to which actress would make a good Eleanor! But what inspired Gail Honeyman to write this book? According to an interview with BBC Radio 4, it was while listening to a programme about loneliness. People generally associate loneliness with older people, but Honeyman was struck by the story of a woman in her late twenties who worked full time in a big city – but at weekends saw nobody at all. This was the catalyst for the character of Eleanor. This is a book with a real core of empathy – and kindness. The take out for me was that we can really change people’s lives with small acts of kindness. ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ is one of the spearhead novels of a new trend that publishers are calling ‘uplit’ – books that are optimistic and empathetic. This is not just a reaction to the grim realities of today’s world, but also a backlash against the ‘griplit’ that has taken
hold (pardon the pun) of the publishing world in recent years. Any book that makes you think about what it means to be human and how we should perhaps try to understand others a little bit more definitely gets my vote – especially when it is as readable, funny and moving as ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’. What did members of the Expat Book Club say about this book? ‘I didn’t want to finish it!’ ‘Eleanor Oliphant … I loved this book’ ‘Loved it. Especially the first half that made me laugh and feel uncomfortable in equal measure’. The Expat Book Club verdict? 90% of our readers loved it and would recommend this book. At times laugh out loud funny, at times heartbreakingly sad, it’s a novel that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. This book gave us a lot to talk about, and by the end of the story I think everyone in the book club was rooting for Eleanor. Other books by female
authors that have got us talking: Maggie O’Farrell, ‘This Must Be The Place’ If you haven’t yet read any Maggie O’Farrell then you’re in for a treat. This is her seventh novel and, for me, her best. It’s a sprawling tale of a marriage in decline and it jumps from decade to decade, and country to country. I loved the authenticity of the different characters’ voices and the wonderfully astute observations about a relationship going off the rails. At the centre of the story is a former film star turned recluse and her husband. But I also think that, at its heart, this is a story about the search for home and all that ‘home’ means… which any expat can relate to. I found this moving, funny and searingly honest. One of those books that was such a pleasure to read that, afterwards, I didn’t want to pick anything else up for a little while. Liane Moriarty, ‘Big Little Lies’ This is the first Liane Moriarty book I have read - and I was surprised at how much I facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 113
enjoyed it. It’s funny and the characterisation is absolutely spot on. Part of the fun of reading this, for me, was thinking which of my school Mum friends best resembled the characters... And to crowbar another ‘expatism’ in there … it’s a good reminder that, when you meet someone new - be kind! You never know what’s going on with them. OK, that’s not really an ‘expatism’, but there is a character here who moves somewhere new, and not everyone is welcoming. I think we can probably all relate to that. And yes, it’s now a massive TV series. But, as is so often the case the book is so much better What is The Expat Book Club? The Expat Book Club is an online community connecting women living overseas through a shared love of reading. As the Expat
Book Club is online you can join in whenever suits you, and you can remain a member no matter how many times you move! Come and read us, wherever you’re from, wherever you’re living, you’re welcome here.
www.makingherehome.com/expat-book-club/ The Expat Book Club - A community for book lovers living overseas www.makingherehome.com The Expat Book Club is an online community for women to connect via a love of books. Wherever you’re from, wherever you’re living, you’re welcome here! www.facebook.com/groups/expatbookclub Twitter: @makingherehome1 Email: hello@makingherehome
Bangkok Self Storage: A safe haven for your belongings big or small Convenient and secure, Bangkok Self Storage offers high quality storage solutions for every budget Established in 2004, Bangkok Self Storage offers an invaluable service for anyone who wants to free up space in their homes or offices, or store items while they move house or travel. The company serves both the business and residential markets, and unlike traditional storage and warehousing, which may have limited access, long term contracts and added fees, access to storage at Bangkok Self Storage is flexible and free. You can pay by the month and come and go as often as you like, and as long as you like, 7 days a week. Now 2 branches at Rama 4 and Sukhumvit 50, all spaces are modern, clean, secure and tall enough to store a large range of items. Storage for suitcases and backpackers as start at only 150B per week per item. Other highlights at Bangkok Self Storage include: - Convenient locations - Rama 4 road and Sukhumvit 50 - The company can help in nearly every aspect of storage from supplying boxes to advising you on packing your space
- As long as the space you need is available, you can store your valuables tight away without any hassle. There is no waiting time; register and use the service the same day. 3249 Rama 4 Road, Tel: 02 261 1516 to 7 email: email@example.com Line ID: @BSStorage Open daily 9 am – 6 pm
by Talar Zambakjian Artinian
Classical look from Victoria Beckham, floaty feminine styles bright and summer-ready from Fendi (one of my favourite checks of the season), Balenciaga’s voluminous coats, looks like checks are going nowhere for the next season and of course declare your love to Burberry.
Not only in the wild west! Fringing is back to the international catwalks this season. Less festival shreds, but more bohemian, Celine , Dior, Paco Rabanne and Loewe gave them a sophisticated, cosmopolitan look. Have fun with this one and ladies don’t forget to Boomerang with the fringes ;)
I love Spring, shopping for Spring Summer is something I wouldn’t miss… It starts from now and ends by the end of the summer… All the tips of what to get from now to be in trend with Spring and Summer, I’ve listed them below, just follow my steps and you’ll be glowing this season… Here are the major trends of Spring 2018:
You simply can’t resist glitter next summer. The sequins conquered every fashion capital, starting with Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs right through to Gucci, Dior and Chanel. Let’s not forget to mention the amazing comeback of the models of the 90s with the Tribute to Gianni Versace… We fell again in love with the models (picture)
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The most out-there trend of spring/summer 2018 is transparency or let’s just say it - plastic. Chanel, Valentino, Balmain, Top Shop, Calvin Klein and Fendi, plastic in different colours will be everywhere next season - perfect for spring showers or for us Bangkokians for Songkran.
The spring catwalks are flowering with ruffles again this season, with Erdem (pictured), Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Valentino. If they’re snaking around your neck or cascading down your shoulder, pull your hair back in a sleek style so it doesn’t interfere. I just love this feminine touch, it’s always a win win situation for us women.
The diversity of pastel colours is back on stage this coming season. Lilac, pink, lemon or blue, almost all the runways run awash with gelato pastels, but if you don’t want to look too “cotton candy”, pair these tones with something a little tougher, such as a weathered jean jacket or anything in black leather.
A bit of an antidote to the baby shades of next summer’s pastel trend will be bold and bright hues from Stella McCartney, Versace and Christopher Kane. All over the world the fashion shows were filled in with vibrant colouring. The future’s bright. I just love to wear colours, it gives life different positive meanings. Don’t you agree?
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Transparency again - translucent coats, dresses and skirts with unexpected cycling shorts and full briefs. Basically, Dior nailed it since last season with it’s see through skirts, now it’s back and even more accentuated. Take a look also at Balmain’s and Ralph & Russo amazing look in sheer. As a more modest take on the naked dress you’ll see tulle arrive on the streets any moment now.
Sometimes a single bag just doesn’t cut it, so it is quite nice to see designers give us all kinds of multi-bagging options. Chanel (pictured), Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci styled their models with two or more bags at once. Dual purse combo, multipouch bags, backpack and a classic clutch, this season’s “which purse works best” solution - if in doubt of which one to wear, Wear them both… I’m sure ladies you have one or two or more items in trend in your wardrobe from previous years; just take them out and wear them this season :)
Between the two cultures
by Jacquelyn Jeanne
If you are not a daring person when it comes to glittery dresses, then try the glittery accessories. I would suggest you put on the Cinderella shoes and still be in fashion for this Spring/Summer, it’s an immediate statement :). We’ve seen almost all the brands having their glittery touch when it comes to shoes (my favourites are Valentino, Victoria Beckham and Gucci). Also I like how socks and shoes are making a comeback. To make it less dressy you can mix the socks with these glittery shoes…
I That’s all for the Spring 2018, more advices to come for the summer 2018, Stay tuned…
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came to this country as a single mother with the goal of staying at home and being with my little girl in her youngest years. What I got was that, and much more. Initially I intended to give my daughter a multi-cultural upbringing to show her that we are all human beings brought up in a variety of ways. I wanted to stay in Thailand long enough to deeply understand the culture before moving on to another country. I must admit that even now, 8 years later, I feel I may never fully understand this culture. I make cultural mistakes a lot less then I used to but I am always learning and that is why I have stayed. The value of what I have learned is what I would like to share with you. I am only speaking from my own experience, mostly in the deep south of Thailand and I am open to
corrections in my understandings, but I will share with you how I see it. To understand who this culture has taught me to be I would first like to share with you a little bit about where I came from. I was born in the USA. As an American I was taught to always try to be bigger, better, faster and stronger. My work ethics were drilled into me from a young age. I was taught to have back up plans to my back up plans and to always be learning from my past while planning for my future. Talk about a lot of stress. When I had jobs in the US I was taught to never take a rest. If we had free time at work we were expected to find something to do or risk being made redundant. I also learned that I must make myself so valuable to my employer that I would guarantee a bright future with that company. The ongoing narrative in my
head was one of non stop planning and perfectionism. We were also taught that we must do what we love but now I feel that this is only an idea and not generally a real feeling that we obtain. Thai culture has brought me back down to earth and reality. One of the things I dearly love about this culture is that it is a more feeling based culture. I have had the experience of going to work and my Thai manager told me that she didn’t feel my heart was in my work that day. She was correct, I was very worried about an ill family member that day but I had not said anything. She suggested that I take the day off to allow my heart to be ready for work. I was quite shocked by this. My upbringing taught me to be professional and hide my feelings at work and deal with my personal
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stuff on my personal time. The Thai culture did not separate the two and even when I tried to hide my feelings the Thais felt it. I also appreciated that they only work if their heart is in it. Again, I was brought up with this concept however at the end of the day we just worked even if our hearts were not in it. I continue to learn more about the Thai heart and I intend to allow more balance between my American thinking style and my Thai feeling style. This way of Thai feeling is much more here and now. At times I feel very frustrated with the here and now style because future planning and step by step instructions with my Thai employees felt like a nearly impossible task but when I became flexible I learned that we can still get things done together in new ways then I had previously thought of. I had some big lessons to learn. I remember telling some of our staff to please do multiple things then I would notice they would disappear after one thing was finished. I also thought I was being considerate when I would ask the kitchen staff to make my lunch when they had time because I could see that they were busy. My attempts to be polite were actually not appreciated because I was asking them to remember me and my order while they were focused on something else. I was literally pulling them out of the
now and distracting them by doing that. I finally learned to offer one step at a time with my staff and to order my lunch when people had the time to do it. They taught me to stay here and now along side my staff. Our potential productivity was slowed down a little bit but our happiness level increased
balance this with my upbringing and keep my ability to plan for the future and multi task but I feel that both abilities are very important at different times. The Thai language has also taught me many things. Coming from a native English speaking country I did not really understand how separating our language patterns can be until I lived in a solely Thai speaking area. I finally found a Thai friend who was willing to correct my mistakes when I spoke in Thai to give me the opportunity to improve my speaking skills. I also found this quite funny because in the US we would absolutely correct people and guide them to speak in accurate ways. In Thailand I searched for years to find someone willing to tell me what errors in speech I was making. I understand that this comes from not wanting me to lose face and I now find that quite sweet but it took a lot of effort to improve when no one wanted to tell me I was wrong. One day I was practicing with my Thai friend. He asked me “Gin kow Ley young?” (have you eaten yet?)
“I feel that in the USA we have been tragically separated because of our history and working style and the greatest loss is the loss of family.”
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greatly. I believe this is a large part of the reason why Thai people look so young. They are not thinking about 50 things at one time, they are instead in a beautiful flow, working hard, from one thing to the next but not distracted by a crazy monkey running around in their minds. I will forever be grateful to this culture for giving me the experience I needed to understand that I can work hard and accomplish great things while being here and now. I do also want to
to which I replied “Chan gin kow leaw” (I have already eaten). He then blew my mind open by explaining to me that in the Thai language using the word for “I” with my friends is actually separating and formal. Dumbfounded and open minded I asked him what I was supposed to say, he replied to use my name instead of “I”. In English if I were to say “Jackie has eaten already” people might assume that Jackie is a bit crazy but in Thai it makes us much more connected. I absolutely loved this communal aspect of their language. I also adore that I can call many people mom or sister or grandmother or grandfather because the roles are not left exclusively to blood family but are flexible to include the people who we interact with daily. I feel that in the USA we have been tragically separated because of our history and working style and the greatest loss is the loss of family. In Thailand they have family everywhere they go. I would love to see what this sense of connection could do in the USA. Another friend explained to me that when a Thai says “I do not understand”, the meaning is different then the way we say it in English. For me, “I (self, separate from others) do not understand”, is a very mental expression meaning that my brain does not compute what the other person is saying. In Thai they say “Jackie (inclusive way to refer to self) mai (does not) kow (come into) jai (my heart)”. They are literally saying that the information or experience does not go into their hearts. Such a beautiful way of receiving information, not mentally but through feeling. I recently taught my daughter about addition of multiple digit numbers and how to carry the extra number up and add it to the
next column. When I checked her homework I realised that she was not writing this number down on the top of the next column like I had taught her. I was worried that she would forget and not add it in if she did not write it down. When I asked her why she was not writing it down she explained to me that her teachers had taught her to hold the number in her heart then add it in to the next column when it was time. Again, I was blown away by the sweetness of the culture. I also loved that they took something as mental as mathematics and brought the heart into it. Being in between the two cultures is also a great gift in the work I have been involved in. I have learned to balance the fun with the serious. I love that I can connect with my Thai friend in a relaxed and fun way but be present and professional with our foreign guests. I feel valuable here because I love and respect both ways of doing things and get to live in this fine balance between the two worlds. Some guests would come to our reception desk and ask for things in a very aggressive tone to which the Thai staff would often run away from but when I spoke with the guest I would find that they were only asking for something as simple as toilet paper.
It’s a great experience to be in the middle and be able to coordinate communications between different cultures because I feel that many things are only problems because of communication differences. I also love the opportunity to share with people what I have learned to enhance their vacation and understanding of this culture. Overall, I believe that my upbringing balanced with what I am learning in Thailand will, and is making me a better person. I think had I stayed in the USA I would have stressed myself into a heart attack at some point and all of my striving would have been for nothing. I also do not want to completely relax into the Thai here and now ways because I do see the value in thinking, planning and pushing forward (just not to the American extreme). It is my hope that a healthy balance between the two can be found. Essentially, balancing what the brain and the heart want in order to be a more whole and complete person. This is what I feel Thai culture is teaching me. I look forward to many more lessons and to navigating the Thai terrain while remembering who I am and where I came from but while allowing myself to be shaped by this beautiful country.
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Dancing queen by Ravit El-Bachar Daniel
“When I was a child I thought I will be a surgeon or a doctor when I will grow up. Usually ballet dancers start in an early age, but I started ballet only at the age of 14 by coincidence...”
ay Stombler Pansringarm dances her life since her days in NY and along the last 30 years in Thailand. She pirouettes between cultures, languages, family life, business and stage. But also a ballerina needs two to Tango, and with her husband Pu she shares the claps. This is her story. A quick look at Fay – and you would never guess she’s turning 60 these days. She grew up in NY, where she was a professional dancer and ballerina, and 30 years ago decided to come to Thailand with her Thai husband. She earned good reputation in the city by her dance studio Rising Star which ‘raised’ many dancers over the years and gave Bangkok’s kids and teens their first taste of ballet. Every year the studio stages a full length ballet production with professional dancers and students of all ages. I caught Fay for an interview in the middle of preparations for 2018 performance La Fille Mal Gardee. Fay and I got to know each other when my daughter had her “Ballerina” phase in the
age of 7-8, and although my up here”, Fay smiles. then. What are the main daughter moved on to other “My Thai husband Pu and differences you can see? hobbies since (she’s 13 now...) I met in NY – we met as “I arrived when there were – Fay and I had always kept in a waitress and a bus boy rice fields and buffalos in touch. In the waiting room of working in a restaurant in Bangna Trad and Samut the studio I also got to know Broadway (we were both Prakan. her husband Pu, who himself students at that time and had Days back then were is ‘a rising star’. to earn our living; he studied very different, especially Fay, why dance? graphic design). for foreigners. You couldn’t “When I was a child I thought After getting married we get here everything as you I will be a surgeon or a doctor decided to come to Thailand do today. The only grocery when I will grow up. with the thought of trying shop where you could get Usually ballet dancers start an import-export business some Western stuff was in an early age, but I started together; after years in the Villa Market - all expats ballet only at the age of dance area, I thought I will shopped there; and S&P was 14 by coincidence. I was start a new professional the closest to international actually a gymnast. One day chapter in Thailand. But restaurant you could get. I went with a friend who they were crying out here Back then you were lucky wanted to check the summer in Bangkok for dance and to have land phone line, it programme of the Harkness ballet teachers, so I found was hard to keep in touch Ballet Company. She didn’t myself keep doing what I with my family and friends get their scholarship. But I love – teaching ballet and from the US. We sent did. And this is how I started choreographing. At the first letters. Bangkok was not so with ballet. years I worked at dance cosmopolitan as it is today. Later on when I grew up – I studios in Bangkok, my Today everything has had offered to study at Johns husband and myself also ran changed for the better! Hopkins University, but I direct sales activity on the You can get anything here chose to go to ballet school side, and we both did the now: Western food, English instead. No regrets. I then production and choreography books, communication danced in different dance for the annual Thailand made easy. There is more companies in NY, and even beauty pageants. 9 years later style, there is Thai style. It is started a punk-rock dance we opened our own dance going in a good direction!” company back in the 80s. I studio Rising Star, which is You opened your own just love it.” celebrating its 21st year now.” dance studio 21 years ago What does a New Yorker You arrived 30 years ago in Bangkok. From being do in Thailand? to Thailand. Bangkok and a dancer and teacher who “I married a Thai and ended Thailand were different back works for others – you
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became a businesswoman. good way to hold the body husband supported the Tell me about this change, - it holds the stick. It’s also dance studio business why did you decide to go drama, art, expression, and behind the scenes. You into business? healthy for your body. I make a good team, running “I am surprised I didn’t do it totally understand why only this as a family business. long ago. My husband left small percentage will go Few years ago he became Thailand after High School, to the profession of dance. a star when he started and we came to Thailand But even if you don’t turn his late acting career in when he was in his 30s. He it into a professional career, movies, from Hollywood didn’t have a big family back then who could support us in our first days in Thailand. We were really on our own, building our future. Artists are not trained to think ‘business’ and I did it to have my own control on the artistic aspect. It’s a kind of profession that revolve others who learn dance can to Thai cinema, picking on skills, teaching and gain interest, and get other awards as Best Actor or experience – you need to things meaningful out of other nominations in film have it all, so business wise festivals worldwide. How is it wasn’t a risk for me at all.” it. That’s why I teach. I have students who write to me it to have two performers Would you say then 15 years after how it was in one family? And how did that the dance studio is the meaningful to their life, and it affect the family business project of your life ? this makes me feel good.” you both run? “To be accurate – dance is Fay’s husband – Pu – is “We really know the routine the project of my life. Since also known to the Thai of our dance studio business, the age of 14 I see dance as cinema audience as we know what to expect a whole language I speak, Vithaya Pansringarm. and when; Since Pu’s acting and there are things that For many years you were schedule is unexpected, we can be only expressed in the one on stage, under plan ahead with our family movement. Moreover, I the spotlight, while your business, to be able to deal always saw dance as a
“That’s why I teach. I have students who write to me 15 years after how it was meaningful to their life, and this makes me feel good.”
with whatever comes. We’ve learn that the busier you get – the more efficient you get. We are both artists and entertainers – it’s about the quality of the work and about rewarding your soul. He is an artist first, and two artists have 2 goals behind their egos. We both able to praise each other and enjoy the claps.” Cultures differences – challenges and advantages? “As my Thai husband is also an artist, what connected us initially were the similarities we had in common, and culture was mainly how you feel obligated to bend the rules. After 30 years in Thailand - do I feel Thai or American? I choose the best from each culture. It’s nice to have the ability to choose and not obliged to one. It’s like one more page from the menu to choose from.” You started your parenthood experience in a late age (in compare to many) – in your forties – tell us about your
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parenthood experience. years ago. When I first met “I started late as we were the grandmother - she took too busy. We started with care, in her own premises, nothing, we supported the of around 100 monkeys and family, and we wanted to gibbons who were rescued. establish ourselves first It was fascinating and we’ve before having children. realised she needs some When we wanted a child help with that, so we got it didn’t go easily. I had involved and it grew into a 7 times IVF, and when foundation. I finally got pregnant - I The environment became danced until giving birth. I the biggest concern in the gave birth on the age of 42. world. Since I was little – my It was a change - I became mum made recycled bags a mother combined with for food, and was in the being a wife, teacher, and organic farming movement a businesswoman. My son 50 years before it became was with us in the studio fashionable. So I always had since he was a baby. In environmental awareness preschool days he was and was passionate about playing there with kids in all wildlife.” ages waiting for their sibling students, this way he always What or who inspires you? had companions. We never “Several of my teachers. And had a regular schedule with my mother. She was a ‘free my son, we were freestyle. spirit’, she allowed all of us
“Getting older as a teacher you understand the body more and more, and you learn how to use the body correctly and safely. It is nice to know that in The Netherlands they created a retired people dance company, with older dancers who have so much to offer but can’t dance with younger dancers. If I can still do that in ten years from now – I will be thrilled. My dad is now 90 and does everything, driving etc. I would appreciate being the same. If an age was only just a number...” Do you take time off? What do you do then? How do you pamper yourself? “In the last two years I go to Hua Hin almost every
the typical age to start motherhood, and raised my son mostly in the dance studio. I believe in letting things be as they suppose to be, it can be whatever you want, not according to expectations, or cultural ‘what has to be’, you have to choose the way that works for you.“ Your top tip to inspire other expats women in a foreign city? “There is so much here, so many different things. Since you might not be in the city for long – just dig in it. Instead of trying to do the same as you did at home – just try new things here. Living here is not being exposed to Thai style only but to different cultures and communities. You
Bordeaux, France in 1789, it is a simple and familiar love story which takes place in the French countryside. The cast of performers include 5 professional dancers, some well known to the Thai audience and some trained and worked abroad in the most prestigious ballet academies. Also dancing are almost 100 students of Rising Star Dance Studio, ages 4 to adult, from over 25 nationalities. I hope Expat Life readers will come to enjoy our show.”
La Fille Mal Gardee 2/3 June 2018, 2:30pm** M Theatre, Petchaburi Rd. Tickets* & Reservations: 900B at 081 908 3931 081 553 0656 firstname.lastname@example.org *Partial proceeds will benefit the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand. **Ballet performance run two acts, totalling approximately 110 minutes, plus a 20 minute intermission.
“Since I was little – my mum made recycled bags for food, and was in the organic farming movement 50 years before it became fashionable. So I always had environmental awareness and was passionate about wildlife.” He adapted. And we keep this parenting style now when he is a teenager. My son is really part of the family business – he grew up in the studio and in the annual ballet productions he helps backstage, and has his own team.” You are a board member at Wild Animal Rescue; what attracted you to support this cause? “For many years my husband and myself are active at Wild Animal Rescue. A grandmother of a student started this foundation 28
to be who we are and not ‘to fit in’.” What are you proud of? “Being able to take all the incredible training I got and pass it on the next generation – that’s what I’m proud of. As there were teachers who inspired me – I can now be an inspiration for others.” You are on your 60s now. The body is not responding anymore like in your 20s ballerina days. For how long you will keep up with teaching/dancing?
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weekend, whenever I can, and this is my treat. I decided that since I don’t plan to quit my job until the age of 85, I will retire now every weekend. I feel I’ve earned it.”
can give here a lot to your children by allowing them to see there are many options in the world; this is the advantage of raising international kids, after all.”
And last thing - tell us about Share with us your wisdom the upcoming production for life? you work on these days. “I kept changing schools as “At the first weekend of June a child, and never followed we’ll present at M Theatre a conventional path. I the full length ballet La Fille left home just before 16, Mal Gardee supported myself, studied (The Badly Guarded Girl) (and NY was much tougher which is one of the first place back then but vibrant). ballets about “real people” I became a mother at the rather than kings, queens, age of 42, which is not or gods. First performed in facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 125
When the expat social scene
messes with your mind and mood
weepy or cranky to having big anger outbursts, all of it in a matter of hours with my poor kids and husband bearing the brunt of these extreme mood swings. For a long time I blamed it on hormonal imbalances, and even took some bio identical hormones for a while to try to smooth things out. But, and this is what I told Diane as well, hormones don’t get out of balance in a vacuum. Your brain doesn’t start bouncing from happy to depressed to angry on its own either. It is a result of internal imbalances that slowly grow into a range of symptoms, which can look like anything, depending on what your weak link is. In Diane’s case (and in mine) these symptoms turned up in the form of mood swings (along with a bunch of other things!) When you have had enough of these symptoms and you summon up the courage to do something about it, you essentially have two ways to go: take medication to manage them or embark on a diet and lifestyle overhaul to rebalance your body and brain at a foundational level. I am a fan of the latter. And fortunately, Diane was too. Because, I am not kidding you, it took just 3 weeks for her to even out her moods once we revamped her diet. She reported having more energy, losing weight, and NO more cranky afternoons! That is how powerful nutrition is. While the process looks a bit
To the outside world Diane* had it together. She was happily married, had two wonderful kids, a great social life and she was very active in the local expat community. by Monique Jhingon
he first time we spoke Diane mentioned that after the initial relocation adjustment period she now loved her life but that all was not well. All the social engagements that came with her busy expat lifestyle also came with unhealthy eating and drinking patterns. She had noticed weight creeping on, her skin issues flaring up and what really drove her to reach out to me were the mood swings. “None of my friends see this side of me but literally every afternoon I get
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this mental crash and I feel anxious, stressed and cranky” she told me. “As a result of this I end up raiding the pantry which makes me feel worse. I feel like I am caught in this vicious cycle where I eat the wrong things which causes me to feel worse which makes me eat even more!” Diane was so ready to feel healthier and mentally more balanced. Boy could I relate… When I was at the height of my health crisis about 12 years ago I was mentally all over the place. I could easily move from feeling
different for every person, depending on their health history, complaints, and their bio individual needs, here’s how I approached it with Diane: We cleared out the sugar and refined carbs and then some. Sometimes eliminating sugar and refined carbs are all it takes to feel better fast. However, since Diane had an autoimmune condition we took her elimination list to the next level. And if that thought scares you: it’s never forever. A period of eating real, clean, non-inflammatory, and nutrient dense foods as part of a healing programme usually does the trick. After Diane was feeling a whole lot better we tested putting individual foods back into her diet in a balanced and ideal way for her.
We healed and sealed leaks in her gut. This step is critical, especially in brain health. When the lining of your digestive tract is compromised there is a continuous underlying level of inflammation in the gut, which equals ongoing stress on the body. And continuous stress interferes with hormone balance, neurotransmitters, immune function and your general ability to feel sound and sane.
We nourished her microbiome. These are the trillions of microorganisms that are housed in our digestive tract and that literally form the control centre of your biology, including your mental frame of mind. These critters control your life! It’s truly mind blowing when you start digging into the science behind this. So in order to support the health and diversity of the bacteria in Diane’s gut we added in probiotic and prebiotic rich foods.
We worked on her lifestyle factors, including sleep and exercise and stress management. As part of this step we addressed the social pressure that she felt as part of a vibrant and fun loving expat community. It can be hard sometimes to turn down a drink or a particular food without feeling like a partypooper, but once you get your priorities straight and know how to handle these situations, you will choose your health and wellbeing over peer pressure and find some balance in this arena as well. So, to summarise: if you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster ride most of the time, there are things you can do to address that. Just focus on the 4 steps I mentioned. Be well.
Monique Jhingon is a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner who offers select private coaching to expats whose health and digestion has been compromised as a result of transitioning into new environments, cultures, climates and foods. You can read more on her website and sign up for a free Nutrition Breakthrough Session here: www.moniquejhingon.com
Monique *Name changed for privacy purposes.
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Going it alone in Bangkok by Georgia Knapp I loved to travel and experience new places. I’d grown up as a military brat, living in England, Cuba, and Germany. How had I not found a partner who shared my same wanderlust?
hen I decided to move to Asia in the Fall of 2017 I planned to go with my boyfriend, Ross. We’d been dating for nearly seven years. I was in the last year of my Masters Programme and struggling over the unexpected loss of my father at the beginning of the school year. The thought of moving halfway around the world with Ross gave me the incentive and motivation I needed to overcome my grief, finish my thesis, and complete the degree. The night before my graduation (and just five months before we were to fly to Thailand), Ross dumped me. “I never planned to move to Asia,” he said. “I’ve been lying the whole time.” His decision was as swift and unexpected as my father
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collapsing from a blood clot. The news devastated me. I spent the summer debating whether to go to Thailand as planned or remain in the States and prove to Ross that I didn’t want to move abroad either. When Hurricane Irma blew through the southeastern US, taking my car and my furniture with her, I decided it was a sign. In late October I boarded a flight bound for Asia. At first I was lonely. This is expected when you move to a new city, especially one in a country where you don’t (yet) speak the language. Added to that was the constant reminder that I wasn’t supposed to come to Bangkok solo. Pairs of backpackers stood next to me on the BTS. Travellers held hands as they darted across the street. Couples who’d decided
to travel the world together listed their itinerary to me. I hated them all. I loved to travel and experience new places. I’d grown up as a military brat, living in England, Cuba, and Germany. How had I not found a partner who shared my same wanderlust? I worked to build a social life immediately. I joined MeetUp groups and Bumble’d and Tinder’d like it was a career. I met other expats, but that, too, made me feel alone because it seemed like everyone had come to Bangkok with a significant other. They talked about going to night markets together and weekend trips to Ko Samui. I could barely muster the courage to order pad krapao moo from a street vendor. Everything felt easier with a buddy. I wasn’t used to
travelling totally solo, and the experience was frustrating and anxiety inducing. Embarrassing yourself by saying khob khun krup instead of khob khun kaa is much more laughable when you’re with a friend rather than standing there, turning bright red by yourself. As I sat in my studio apartment off Udom Suk each night, eating instant 7/11 noodles, and scrolling through friends’ engagement announcements on Facebook, I couldn’t help but beat myself up: Why the hell did I come alone? Although the MeetUp and InterNations groups weren’t always helpful, I still pushed myself to keep attending. I looked for activities instead of simple meet-and-greets and I forced myself to do touristy things on my own: Wat Pho, Wat Traimit, Chatuchak Market, etc. Each time I did something solo that I normally wouldn’t have, I met really cool, interesting people. I started to make connections and felt confident navigating the city. There were still moments of “Oh God I look like such a tourist why do I have to be by myself?” But they were easier to shrug off and move on. By the time the New Year rolled around, I’d landed a job, moved into a new apartment, and had at least four or five friends I could call up to hangout. It was while eating dinner with one of these friends that I realised: I’m better off in Asia without Ross. Although Ross had (originally) agreed to move to Asia with me, he wasn’t a terribly adventurous person. He was a good ol’ Southern boy, who was perfectly fine living in the same town where he’d grown up. In the seven years that we’d dated, any travelling we did was orchestrated by me. The friends Ross made
he’d also met through me. Ross wasn’t antisocial; he was simply content to stay at home reading a book night after night. I, on the other hand, wanted to experience as much as possible. My father’s passing had especially amped up my desire to live life to the fullest. Why couldn’t Ross read his books from a boat in Ha Long Bay or in a glass igloo in Norway? As my friend and I drank wine and ate shrimp, I thought about all the interesting people I’d met during my short time in Bangkok: a fellow Third Culture Kid from Bhutan, a doctor from Sri Lanka, an analyst from India, a teacher from England, and an academic from Scandinavia, just to name a few. I wouldn’t have met any of them had I moved to Thailand with Ross. Some of those friends I’d met through Bumble/Tinder so I wouldn’t have met them for obvious reasons, but the others I’d met through MeetUp groups. Ross wouldn’t have gone to those groups and neither would I because I would have felt bad leaving him on his own (after living in Bangkok for half a year I would have been OK abandoning him for an evening or two, but how much of Bangkok would I have missed out on by then?). With Ross, I would have spent my days going to work and coming home. I wouldn’t live in the apartment that I live in now because Ross would have found the space too small and the area too crowded. I wouldn’t go to weekend markets or plan trips to Laos because Ross doesn’t like crowds and it takes a while
to convince him to travel somewhere. I wouldn’t be pushing myself to be more independent because I would have had a partner to run to and say: No, JK. Let’s just go home and order in instead. In short: I wouldn’t be living in Bangkok. I would just be in Bangkok. I’m grateful to be on my own in Asia. Being on my own means I can do what I want, go where I want, and meet who I want. Sure, there are times when I’m by myself and feel that suffocating loneliness that comes after a rough breakup, but then I go outside and walk down a new street or try a new food stall. I still have the slightest tinge of wishing I’d moved to Thailand with a partner, but, on the whole, I’m happy to be going this alone. With a partner I would have been content in Asia. Solo, I’ll experience everything Asia has to offer. email@example.com
Bangkok is a beautiful view in the day and night.
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“We have convinced ourselves that the pretend version that we got so good at presenting to the world, is somehow a better version of us.”
7 simple ways to speak your mind with confidence - without fearing rejection by Isabel Valle
I see it all the time in my clients... their brilliance, their creativity, their intuition; their amazing ability to communicate and express their view of the world in a way that only they can. I so look forward to the fascinating conversations that I hold with each one of them, where they share their dreams, their fears, their past failures... it is all a part of a puzzle that makes them who they are, imperfectly beautiful.
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hen they are able to open up and be vulnerable in front of another person... that’s when the real magic happens. When they let go of any inhibitions and just allow themselves to speak their truth... that’s when the transformation takes place. And yet, whenever we start discussing about going out into the world showing who they really are, express their views, ideas, and their truth, I can sense their fear creeping in, causing them to disconnect from that inner source that allows them to express themselves authentically and genuinely. “I never speak to anybody else the way that I do with you. Even to my own family and partner”. They tell me. “Why do you think that is?” I ask them. They all have a big list of reasons: “Well, I am afraid that if I do, they won’t agree with me, or they will think I am crazy, they will reject my ideas; they won’t support
me, or worse, they’ll judge me, and finally see that there is something wrong with me, that I am not as good/clever/interesting as they think I am.” This overwhelming list of arguments provides them with the back up they need to continue to hide their true self, even though, in the back of their minds, they seem to be aware that this is holding them back from fully expressing their potential and manifesting all that they seek in business and in life. We have convinced ourselves that the pretend version that we got so good at presenting to the world, is somehow a better version of us. Now, go back and read that statement again. Does it really make sense to you? When did we decide to stop being who we were born to be, and become the impostor running our lives? More importantly, how does it make you feel when you are having to show up in your life as a whole different person? Do you catch yourself being conflicted with how you
act and how you’d really like to show up - if only you had the confidence to do it! But why aren’t we speaking up? Simply put, we are afraid. Our fears are born of our perception of reality. Whether these fears are based in reality or not is irrelevant, because they are real to us. We all come across situations where we feel that we are being treated unfairly, or believe we have a better idea but are afraid or too shy to speak up, or we simply don’t believe that our ideas and views are good enough. Many of us adults find it very difficult to speak up and confront others about a difficult subject, especially if we believe that the other person may react negatively. The reality for most of us is the fact that we are so used to speak just to please others, or to be accepted, or sit by the sidelines and let others do the
talking, that we have lost our ability to understand the real value that we can bring into the world by just allowing ourselves to show up in our own true light. We hide behind a mask that we have created to justify to the world our very existence, our value, and our worth. Let me ask you a question: if you could speak up to anyone about anything, with complete confidence, without the fear of being rejected, or judged, just feeling good about showing up in your own capacity, would you want to do it? Or, would you continue to hide behind the mask? Who’s to say that the real you isn’t in fact more beautiful than the mask that you carry around? “Every word has consequences. Every silence, too.” Jean-Paul Sartre If you wish you could speak up confidently, then I have you covered.
Keep reading on to find out 6 easy ways to help you speak your mind with confidence, without fearing rejection: 1. Get to know the real you. People won’t know who you really are or what’s important to you if you don’t clearly communicate it to them. We are constantly making assumptions of how the world see us, what they think of us, and what we need and want. I can tell you, that we do not have the ability to read your mind. Additionally, not everyone is going to like or agree with you, no matter who you are or what you do. That’s just a fact of life. We are all different. There is however tremendous strength and power in speaking your truth, and expressing it to the world your way. Confident people know themselves and know what is important to them, and work on finding ways to show up in a way that’s true to them. They are not as concerned about others, but their own needs, without stepping into someone’s shoes. Confident people are not only good at getting what they want, they are also good at knowing what they truly want. If you do the work to get to know yourself, the real you, who you are and what you stand for, what’s important to you, what makes you happy, what gives you a sense of purpose and your needs and desires, the better you’ll be able to
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Challenge your fears by asking yourself the following: “Is the way I see this fear the absolute truth?” and “What facts or evidence do I have to back it up?” communicate it to others. Very often we simply don’t feel like we know what to say or how to say it because we are lacking clarity. 2. Become aware of your fears. If you want to move past the initial feeling that stops you from speaking up, you are going to have to do some digging and understand the kind of thoughts and arguments that contribute to these feelings. You can easily become aware of your fears by saying to yourself: “I am afraid of speaking up because...”, then completing the sentence. Keep doing it until you feel that you have covered all of the possible fears and arguments that are stopping you. The more responses you come up with, the greater the opportunity to expose the source of your fear. Look for the logic in your arguments. The brain loves evidence and real data. Very often we make assumptions and consider them as facts; but if there are no supporting facts, then you know that you are really just making it up. Challenge your fears by asking yourself the following: “Is the way I see this fear the absolute truth?” and “What facts or evidence do I have to back it up?” 3. Appreciate differences of opinion. Just because another person holds a very different view of the world, or believe in completely opposite ideas to yours, it does not mean conflict will arise. And even when 132 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
real conflict arises, we tend to assume that a difference of opinion will lead to a negative outcome, which isn’t necessarily the case, if you know how to navigate through such conversations. The fact is that each one of us view the world differently. We all make judgements, decisions and hold beliefs relating to our reality of the world. Just because someone else may hold a very different view of the world, it doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong, or vice versa. Consider this, if you view differences of opinion from a place of curiosity, from wanting to know the other person’s view of the world, then agreeing to disagree doesn’t seem like such a scary topic. When you are curious to learn about the other person, without the expectation of having to conclude in agreement, then fear turns into possibility. So next time you are faced with having to speak up, allow yourself to speak your truth, and engage with the other person with the purpose to listen and understand their view of the world. Even on the small chance that things may get heated, I can almost guarantee that you will survive to tell the tale. Stop thinking that people will react negatively to you. I found that most of the time, people respond really well to the truth, if it really is your truth, and you are communicating in a respectful way. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
4. Face your fears - In most cases, putting yourself “out there” and being met with an angry, mocking or dismissive response from another adult doesn’t actually kill you or significantly damage your life. In actual fact, if you continue to speak up, you may be surprised at your resilience in response to any and all possible reactions. We avoid confrontations because we’re irrationally afraid of what will happen, and in most cases we think that we can’t handle it. The best way to let go of this fear is to do precisely what you’re afraid of, or as I like to put it: “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This action allows us to discover that we can actually handle the consequences, that our world doesn’t fall apart, and in most cases our relationships actually benefit from our honesty and transparency. This is assuming, of course, that we’ve done our best to communicate our truth in a straightforward, non-abusive and respectful way.
or locally. You won’t just learn how to speak clearly, you will also learn to speak better in general. The best way to get good at speaking up with confidence, is to do it as often as you can. Nobody is great at anything in the beginning, so try not to compare yourself to anyone. Start where you are at, and just keep working on your own practise. Be consistent in your practice and, in no time, you will reap incredible benefits. 6. Take responsibility of your own life and actions. People who aren’t confident blame others, when they could instead be taking responsibility for at least some of the issue. They feel overwhelmed by a world that won’t stop, and find it paralysing to step in and take action, so they sit in the sidelines instead. But the reality of it is that nobody will come to your rescue. Everyone else is too busy with their own lives to think about your own needs and wants, so you are going to have to
take the initiative to help yourself, and give yourself permission to show up and speak up. Even confident people feel afraid at times, they just lean into the fear and do it anyway, because they know that the benefits of facing your fears greatly outweigh the pain. So, instead of waiting for someone to come to your rescue, or blaming someone else, ask yourself instead: “what can I do to change this?”. Then, focus on taking responsibility for your own actions and show up for yourself. The more you do it, the bigger and better your voice will be, and the easier it will become to speak up. 7. Speak to a professional. If the subject of speaking up still has you paralysed, not to worry, help is at hand. There are a great number of people across many disciplines to help you combat your fears, get to know yourself authentically, and create a life and business you love. Coaching is the perfect answer to those who need some assistance and support in
helping them get clear about who they are, what they really want, and how to get there. Feel free to contact me for a no-obligation, 30 minutes consultation to discuss your own individual needs. Over to you now. What is it that you are scared to say? Who do you need to stand up to? Who do you need to tell how you really feel? If you had to tell the world about who you are and what you stand for, what would say and why? Write down 3 answers and plan how to put them out into the world. Speak up, and watch your world brighten up. Let go of your pretend mask, and enjoy the freedom to be you! Here’s to your success! Isabel Valle is an accredited ICF PCC Coach, Leadership Mentor and Facilitator currently based in Bangkok. Isabel has held senior positions within the hospitality industry in countries around the world, and facilitates a holistic approach to leadership, growth and success. She specialises in virtual coaching and online mentoring that inspires action and helps leaders from all walks of life around the globe bring their gifts to life to help them create professional excellence and personal fulfilment. You can contact Isabel on firstname.lastname@example.org More information available at www.isabelvalle.com
5. Practise makes perfect. If you really want to speak up with confidence, you are going to have to “jump off the cliff ”, so to speak, and get good at practising the art of speaking up. The best way to start rehearsing is by choosing an easier topic, a smaller one, and rehearsing ways in which to speak up about it. Practice at home, with a friend, sign up for a public speaking course, online facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 133
Family and Relationships despair or do we say, that is not my problem? Do we walk around them in the street, pass them by and make a comment that may not be very nice. Do we get angry when someone closes the lift door and we miss it? Perhaps they too were in a hurry.
How do we express our love, friendship and kindness? by Karla Walter
The connection between family members can be so close they only do things together, excluding all others. Some families connect from time to time as they may be living abroad, travelling or going to boarding school. Friendships are made and last a lifetime, others come and go.
chance meeting at work, dinner party, in an elevator can have lasting effects on people that become connected in some way. Whatever the situation is, there is a connection that keeps everyone together. Perhaps that is the love and wellbeing that we wish for each other. As love, friendship and kindness have no physical substance it cannot be quantified. We show how we love each other by gifts, by the psychical presence of a hug or kiss. We can find ways to express our love and kindness through helping someone in a time
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of need, perhaps to take them shopping, or to an appointment. We send emails, with funny symbols or make people laugh, we send cards and remember birthdays once a year. This subject has been talked and talked about and we keep requiring reminders of the importance of letting others know how we feel about them. It doesn’t take much to genuinely let someone know that you are thinking of them or orally telling them that you care or love them, or that their friendship is important to you. The next step to be reminded of is the people
that you don’t know. What about them? Many years ago, I listened to a CD by Caroline Myss called Grace. It is a recording that I recommend to all. In this recording, she reminds us of the grace that is in ourselves and also how do we see the grace in others, even if we don’t know them and will never know them. Do we find this thought process out of our reach or do we say, “oh that’s for people who know how to do that sort of thing?” Each day it is up to us as individuals to make choices for ourselves and our family. Do we raise people up and bring them out of their
The classic saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world” is there for everyone to embrace.
It takes nothing to offer a genuine smile or to say hello and make someone feel that they have connected with someone else. As humans we require a family, a village, a community to be a part of. This may take different forms. Our family may be those who are our close friends, or someone else’s family as you get to know them. Someone in your office might think that the office workers are their family if they don’t have anyone else. Sometimes in major cities we can loose that connection so quickly as we keep telling ourselves how busy we are and therefore don’t have time. I challenge you to spend 10 minutes every day sending good thoughts through quiet meditation to all the people you don’t know and as part of your daily giving of love and friendship. You don’t have to sit with your eyes closed to be quiet in meditation, you can do it walking down the street. We cannot wait for others to do this, no government, or politicians can do this. It is up to everyone on this planet to bring about change in wellbeing. What else could you do? Ask yourself, “Can I go 24 hours without any judgement towards another human being”. The only comments
to make are good thoughts and kind words. Use this as a reminder on all other events throughout the year, use this as a reminder that how you think, what you say makes all the difference in the world.
The classic saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world” is there for everyone to embrace. As the new year unfolds find new ways to express your love and kindness to all.
Health and happiness Karla Walter email@example.com www.living557.com
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Family and Relationships
“The more we concentrate on positive thoughts and feelings, more becomes available. So if you want to change your reality, you need to change your thoughts.”
Kindness is... all around Isabel Valle is an accredited ICF PCC Coach, Leadership Mentor and Facilitator currently based in Bangkok. Isabel has held senior positions within the hospitality industry in countries around the world, and facilitates a holistic approach to leadership, growth and success. She specialises in virtual coaching and online mentoring that inspires action and helps leaders from all walks of life around the globe bring their gifts to life to help them create professional excellence and personal fulfilment. More information available on www.isabelvalle.com
he world is a scary place. Global warming, poverty, inequality, safety and security concerns, wars… we see it everywhere, all the time. Bad news continues to dominate the headlines, which make us feel like we are living terrible times. It is common knowledge that the media tends to focus on the overly negative happenings, spreading fear and causing us to feel disconnected from other human beings.
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What is also true, is the fact that news are made for the mass population, which is used to thinking negatively, and therefore crave more of it. Our minds are so trained to think and talk about the problems of the world, that breaking that habit seems like a very daunting task. But life is a balance, and if there is negative, there must be positive as well. Life is a frame of mind. Have you ever
heard: “What you focus on, grows”? or as Tony Robbins puts it: “Where focus goes, energy flows”. In other words, whatever you focus on is what you get; negative or positive. So focus on the positive and you will bring more positive into your life.
no control over what happens. Ideally, you need to stop worrying about what you don’t do, what you don’t have and isn’t working. If life crumbles all around you, I can assure you that it won’t get better by putting all of your attention on the crumbling.
If you really want to feel better, think more positively and enjoy life at its best, you need to focus your attention on feeling better and thinking better. You need to intentionally put your attention on better feelings, like gratitude, kindness and hope. The more we concentrate on positive thoughts and feelings, more becomes available. So if you want to change your reality, you need to change your thoughts.
For your life to get better, you must focus on what you want to have and put your attention and energy there. So focus on what you want to create for yourself, what you already have that is wonderful, and appreciate it and be thankful for it. When it comes to it, you do have a choice. What you choose to focus on is ultimately your choice and your choice alone. It may not be easy to do at first, yet with some consistency and commitment, it will get easier. The more you do it, the easier it becomes – all our talents and abilities improve with practise.
Many of us live life as if things are happening to us, and act as if we have
So, if you don’t like where you are, you can basically change it. You can choose to take responsibility for creating your life, for making your own choices and for creating the results that you want. Kindness is scattered all around us. We walk through it every day and yet we ignore it. Sometimes, it may take an out of the ordinary event for us to take notice. But if you were to focus on the act of kindness itself, you would realise that there is no lack of kindness in this world. As a coach, global citizen, and someone who has lived and travelled the world for over two decades now, I choose to see the world, and people living in it, in its vast majority, as a
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kind and beautiful place. If you know where to look, and choose to look at it with wonder and possibilities, you can truly come to experience the beauty that life has to offer. And I believe in the power of kindness to change the way people see and experience the world. Being kind means being friendly, generous, and considerate. To be affectionate, gentle, warm, caring and concerned for others. Being kind can strengthen your relationships and sense of satisfaction in life. Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species, and that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual (DiSalvo, Scientific American, 2017). Current research also supports this idea. Science has shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting wellbeing. Kindness has also been found by researchers to be the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness is not just about being kind to others, but also being kind to yourself. So let me ask you: Do you treat yourself kindly? Do you speak gently and kindly to yourself and take good care of yourself? There are many ways to be kind, and many different opportunities to practice. You may notice when someone is going 138 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
through a tough time and offer a kind word, a smile, and even offer to help in any way you can. It is as simple as opening a door for someone, helping carry a heavy load, give an honest compliment or thanking someone. It could be telling someone they are special to you, helping an elderly neighbour, a tired mother, or even donating old clothing and things you don’t need. When it comes to kindness options, you are spoilt for choice. I believe that things always happen for a reason, even if you don’t realise it at the time. This is exactly what happened to me. In the last 12 months, I could tell you so many different occasions where people have done random acts of kindness to me and my family. I really can’t complain, I am a very lucky person, and I feel so grateful for all of you that came to help and support me when you saw me in need and lent a hand. Last year, in quite an unexpected turn
“Science has shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting wellbeing.”
of events, my husband was forced to leave Thailand and his family behind, venturing into a new project located on an island in Vietnam, which is only now starting to develop. Due to its lack of infrastructure and facilities, we were unable to follow my husband, as we typically do. So the kids and I remained in Thailand, the place we get to call our home for the last 2 years now. At first, this was not an easy transition. I found myself struggling with so many things – logistical and otherwise - and so many emotions. But let me assure you, it is thanks to the amazing people that I meet everywhere, that myself and my family have been able to transition and adapt to our new way of life. I simply wouldn’t have enough space to thank all of the people that came to my rescue, whether they knew it or not. By reaching out, caring, listening and lending a helping hand; they made my life so much easier, and helped me conquer the struggles I was faced with. Because there are kind people everywhere; people who make the choice to show up for someone else, to be kind and considerate, to do good.
I specifically want to share with you an act of kindness that simply puts all of my efforts to date to shame. Last year, I found myself stuck in Saigon, where I was trying to get a visa for myself and my children to come back to Thailand. Unfortunately, when we booked our trip, we didn’t realise that the late King’s burial would coincide with our travels, and that all the Thai embassies would be closed. We had already been delayed 2 days, and were trying to get back home as soon as possible. We were the first family to arrive at the embassy, and it came to us as a surprise to be notified that we could only pay for the embassy’s services in US dollars, which we didn’t have. This inconvenience would suppose having to leave the embassy, find an ATM, find a Currency Exchange (which were not available nearby), and get back on the very long line of people that were in our same situation. It was one of those moments when you feel like it is all too much to handle, and I was resigned to have to stay in Vietnam a lot longer than anticipated, which meant additional costs, new flights back home, my children missing school – very tired and grumpy kids, and myself having to handle it all on my own as my husband had to return back to the island for work… Frankly, it all felt a bit too much to handle. And then this lady, out of nowhere, approached us at the embassy and gave us US $500 so we could pay for our visas and not delay our departure any longer. Of course, our initial reaction was to meet this act of kindness with suspicion – if it sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t, right? She explained to us that she was there getting a visa for her sister, and having done it many times before, she always carried extra cash, as it wasn’t the
first time she herself was caught out in the same position. We simply couldn’t believe that someone would be so kind as to help us out that way. My husband asked her how she could trust us to pay her back, and she simply said: “I can see it in your faces; you are nice people and I know that you will do the right thing”. I still get emotional every time I think about this incredibly kind and caring lady, who saw us in need and didn’t hesitate to lend a hand. Needless to say, we transferred the full amount back to her that afternoon, and extended an invitation for her to visit us in the future.
resistance and mistrust. If you only let others help you, and you help others as well, this world will be a much better place. It doesn’t matter where you live, or who you come across, kindness is all around. So look in the right places and you will be marvelled by the true and kind nature in people. Never stop believing that kindness is all around, and watch the world become a much better place.
A smile from someone tells us that they are happy to see us. A tear speaks volumes about how much you’ll be missed. These are acts of kindness that allow us to witness that goodness exists everywhere, that fellow humans New hurdles continue to show up still care for each other without any constantly – and just as they do – ulterior motive. Let’s not ignore it. someone turns up at the right moment, to tell me the right thing I need to hear, If you pay attention to these random acts of kindness in your daily lives, life to hold my hand, to let me vent, and won’t appear to be such a scary place. to help me figure out what I need to do next to continue to move forward. There are so many good things in our Friends and strangers alike, who, despite their busy lives, take a moment lives - way more good things than to connect and care for me, check that bad - but all we talk about and worry about are all the problems. We must I am OK, give me a hug when I need stop torturing ourselves and start it, and go out of their way to be there talking about the good stuff and for me, to help me… I am a lucky ignore the bad. We may just notice person indeed. miracles popping up everywhere. It is a proven thing, thoughts and words Because without these random acts are energy. Start creating good energy of kindness, I know that this chapter by telling a good story. in my life would have been so much harder. And it doesn’t take much to Here’s to your success! notice someone, to ask if they are OK, to be there for them, to show that you Isabel x care. I cannot tell you how many times I try to help others and I am met with
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Art & Culture “Many people are uncluttering their lives and finding time for things that are more important to them by getting rid of all the material things that absorb time needlessly.” Minimalists, this came from a place of feeling like they as individuals had met their definitions of success and found that although they seemed to have a great deal of material trappings they fundamentally weren’t happy. They learned from people who were happy how to be that way, gave it a try and found that for them it was the recipe they needed to lead a fulfilled life. They don’t advocate that everyone disavows themselves of all or most of their material goods but rather these two men say they have a recipe that works for them and they want to share it with others so that others can find the happiness they have found. It is not a prescription but a recipe so it can be altered to suit your needs.
ecently, through my bidding, my book club met and talked about a book called “Bait and Switch, Chasing the American Dream”. The book was slightly dated being published in 2005 but the topic current, a female journalist wrote anecdotally about being an unemployed white-collar worker and using the various employment services: life coaches, resume writers, networking groups, image consultants etc., to gain employment. She was completely unsuccessful in her experiment. Her results and the unemployed white-collar workers she interviewed indicated, as we all know, that North America is in a terrible state of affairs and the outlook for all is not very promising. In our discussion of this book one of the members posed a very poignant question: “What is the American dream for our children?” I guess we first have to define what the “American Dream” is for us; by us I mean anyone who is in their 40s and older. The American dream goes something like this: a big house with a few healthy kids, maybe a cat and dog, a nice car (or two), a couple (both working - only if they want) in jobs they like making a lot of money so that they can buy the things they want for their family and so they can take the vacations they want, entertain as they choose, and simply live a ‘happy’ life filled with all the things they want. It usually meant we would definitely make more money than our fathers 140 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
The new American dream by Barbara Lewis and have bigger houses, better cars and fatter bank accounts than our parents as well. We were more focused on establishing independence and making it on our own. The days of our children making more money than we do or owning bigger houses is definitely a thing of the past. Quite often now there is no choice, two incomes are needed to make ends meet and at the end of the day I know my children are working longer hours for much less money. So, the dream almost must change to keep up with
the times. During our discussion of the book another member mentioned that we must watch the documentary “The Minimalists”. She said it is very interesting and this led to a further discussion on how our children see their futures. I watched this documentary and another called “Chasing Capitalism”, which is about the crisis of the diminishing middle class and their political clout in the United States. It opened my eyes to some things that my children have been telling me for a while now.
My generation and perhaps the ones that followed just after mindlessly participated in the consumerism because that is what we all believed was progress and were led to believe by advertising and political powers would make us happy. Our grandfathers were more tied to the land and an agricultural based economy. With each passing year progress was deemed the ability to move away from that, to become part of the industrial fabric of America and then part of the growing technological America. As we all know however the economy took a number of hits and so did the American middle-class families. We are now seeing firsthand how consumerism can change the economic face of a nation in places like China and other parts of SE Asia. These countries just start to develop a middle class only
I remember when my kids were young how we always wanted to keep everything simple because it just made life so much easier. We have moved so many times in my to watch it fall because the average 35 years of marriage and I know the individuals buying power is lost. times when my husband and I feel the greatest sense of freedom and Our children do not want to be laid inner peace/joy is when everything waste at the side of the road. They is packed away and we only have the want a political say in their community, bare minimum to live with. Obviously, city, state and country. I believe that this is a sign for us. I know as well as the new American dream is about our kids grow, leave home, and build finding meaning in your life and by their own families we look around reducing consumerism so that we are and say we have way too much stuff. more environmentally aware but also Many couples want to downsize their more collective as a society in doing home after retirement but first they what is best for all as well as for the need to downsize all their possessions. individual. The current generations Maybe this new generation will be want quality not quantity in all aspects slightly smarter and be much more of their lives. We did too but they calculating in their purchases to are wise to the rhetoric that sucked begin with. Hopefully their wisdom us in. Many people are uncluttering of finding more meaning and quality their lives and finding time for things in life will extend to important that are more important to them by relationships and community creating getting rid of all the material things lasting environments that give them that absorb time needlessly. For the fulfilment. facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 141
The original clans of Scotland were basically big family groups. The names were, in the beginning, tied to specific areas, called “clan territories”.
ow important are our traditions to us? I think the answer should be, very important. When you are an expat, you seem to be even more concerned about your mother country’s traditions and culture. As a born Swede, I am very proud of ours, as I think most people are. As well as the St Lucia celebration, I’m keen on celebrating Easter with traditional Easter dishes, Easter eggs, etc., and of course Midsummer. When you dance around the decorated poles singing funny songs like “Små grodorna” (The Small Frogs) jumping up and down with the young kids and making a flower wreath to wear on your head and the picking of seven summer wild flowers to put under your pillow to dream about your future husband. These are the three main celebrations that Swedes look forward to celebrating, even if we today, with huge immigration, have to experience them somewhat attenuated. A while ago, I had the pleasure to attend the St Andrew’s Ball at the Amari Watergate Hotel in
Wherever you go, take traditions with you by Agneta de Bekassy Bangkok. This was the first time I had ever heard about this exuberantly fun and special ball, and here we can really talk about traditions. Our British hosts showed us a great deal of theirs including costume, music, dances and food. The St Andrew’s Society was founded 125 years ago in 1890. Since then there have been 95, so called Chieftains. A Chieftain is the leader of a clan. Ancient... enigmatic... colourful... complex... all
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of these words describe the clans of Scotland which are part of this country’s compelling historical journey. The Scottish clan system plays a huge role in their culture and tradition. Today, Scots around the world are still committed to their clan heritage and very proud of it. The system was established in the 11th and 12th century but there are signs of their existence going back to the 6th. The word “clan” comes from the Gaelic word
“clann” meaning “family, offspring children”. The original clans of Scotland were basically big family groups. The names were, in the beginning, tied to specific areas, called “clan territories”. Loyalty and devotion are two of the most important words to clans. In 1746 a Scottish rebellion was defeated at the Battle of Culloden and the clan system was almost wiped out. In the 19th century they saw a growing popularity and
revival of their clans. To the clan system the distinctive Scottish tartan is closely tied. In tartans you will find many different colours and patterns. Just to mention some examples; the “Donald” tartan comes in dark blue, green, red and some yellow. The “Stewart” has the colours red, white and green and the “Forbes Ancient” includes the colours dark blue and green. In the late 1700s the tartans began to be a clan symbol. Kilts themselves were seen as early as 1500 as a kind of highland dress and they looked quite different from today’s kilts. A clan today is a legally recognised group in Scotland. Clan Chiefs are considered noblemen. This is just a short and very simple description of a Scottish clan. Let’s return to the St Andrew’s Ball. We were greeted with classic drinks like Bloody Mary’s and Margaritas, along with of course beer and wine. The British Club Pipe Band played traditional music to welcome the guests. The band’s tutor and Pipe Major Keith Walker is also a piping instructor at Vajiravudh College in Bangkok, which has a large pipe band with more than 50 pipers. This pipe band is available to play in uniform at British Club functions, private
events, weddings, etc. They all wear the Royal Stewart tartan. If you would like to know more about them, go to facebook.com/ BritishClubBangkok PipeBand. We sat down at beautifully decorated tables with flowers and, of course, a bottle of Scotch whisky was placed in the middle of the table. The menu included several great dishes, but I will only mention Haggis, bashed neeps and champit tatties. I had no idea what Haggis was, but now I can tell you: it’s a savoury pluck (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt mixed with a stock. Do you think it sounds delicious? I’m not sure I would have eaten it if I would have known the ingredients …… though I had to admit it tasted quite good. I even saw some of the guests pouring a few drops of the whisky on it. Before dinner was served, we stood all up and listened to the national anthems, the Thai and the British. There was the Chieftain’s speech and a message from the First Minister of Scotland, Mrs Selkirk Grace, to be seen and heard on the big
screens. We had the pleasure to enjoy dances performed by the Gordon School of Dancing and listen to the Bahookie band during dinner. The Big “Bahookie” sound is a unique blend of rock, dance and traditional Celtic music. This was the second time the band came to play at the St Andrew’s Ball in Bangkok. If you want to learn more about this famous band check out on www.bahookie.org I also would like to mention some words about The Gordon School of Dancing. This school is very well known, not only in Scotland,
but also in many other parts of the world. The students have performed in Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Canada, Trinidad, USA and China, just to mention a few, but the highlight of the year is the St Andrew’s Ball in Bangkok. The pupils from such a young age as 2 are taught many genres of dance. “I like to think that my pupils breathe new life into traditional Scottish dancing while remaining true to a long and well respected tradition,”
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Expat Life Mrs Robina says who is the leader and owner of the Montrose School of Dancing. Robina and her husband Norman have been returning to Bangkok with the dancing school for the past 7 years. More than 50 different dancers have enjoyed the trip of a lifetime to Bangkok, Robina says. Robina is honoured to be Deputy Lieutenant for Angus and both her and her husband Norman, organised Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday celebration at Balmoral Castle, among many other events. This couple lead a very busy life with dancing and royal duties for Robina, and piping and breeding pedigree highland cattle for Norman. Norman is also a fellow of the Guild of International and Professional Toastmasters. We had the great pleasure to enjoy several dances during dinner and see different tartans. At last I’d like to tell you little history about the Pipers. It’s not easy to find out about the Bagpipe in Scotland. It seems like the Scottish people have always played them. Some people say it started in the 13th or 14th century. It is most possible that the Scottish piping traditions came up out of England. In the Lowlands, here the hereditary piper seems to have been born. Every town had a piper and the role of town piper was passed from father to son. By 1700, Reverend David Kirkwood advised that “Pipers are held in great request, so that they are train’d up at ye expense
“Traditions give us a base to stand on and it’s important that we forward them to our young generation.” of grandees and have a portion of land assign’d such a man’s piper.” Now that you have received this very brief information about Scottish traditions, I can only recommend that you take part at the next St Andrew’s Ball. It was great fun and everybody enjoyed the dances, since even the beginners joined in and had fun. I will, for sure, attend
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when you get to hear it... If you go ice skating in winter with your children and then come back home, serve them hot chocolate with whipped cream and once change it into another beverage, well I’m quite sure you will hear the question “why don’t we get our hot chocolate mom”? If you, are in the first years of your marriage, get spoilt with small, presents eg from Cartier and you don’t receive them later on, you the next ball. will, for sure miss it, but Traditions give us a base to maybe not asking for them? stand on and it’s important A tradition that could stop that we forward them to for other reasons... our young generation. How I’m also sure, that even often have you started a when your children are tradition like eg waking grown up and Santa isn’t your child up with a coming at Christmas breakfast tray and a cake, anymore, in the bottom of candles and flowers when their hearts, they miss him. she/he is having a birthday? I can only say “Long live If you, for whatever reason, the traditions - let us keep leave it out one year, well them!”
When you suddenly get time to reflect about life... Unwillingly though! by Agneta de Bekassy
ere I sit with a bone fracture in the right foot with a kind of half cast. My whole life, I have been skiing, horseback riding, exercising etc. and I have been lucky never to break a leg, foot or arm. But walking my two small dogs on Sunday morning, we suddenly got attacked by two huge dogs coming like bullets from behind, both off the leash. It was a very scary moment and my dogs tried to save themselves behind me and what happened? I fell to the ground; hitting my hand, head and foot. I tried to stand up, trembling and furious and saw an old Chinese man staring at me with a bright smile. A street vendor, who saw what happened,
came to my rescue and helped scare wounded dog and limped home. My the threatening dogs away. They ran tunic was drenched with blood from back to their owner, who bent down to my dog Bailey and he was groaning cuddle his dogs. … poor little fellow. I didn’t have any I stood frozen watching his strange time to think about myself at that behaviour. I just couldn’t believe moment, my dog came first. what I saw; did he really smile at me? If you don’t have a car and driver, I know, that Thai people smile it becomes difficult when these kinds when they feel embarrassed, for us of situations arise. No taxi is willing Europeans this is a strange way to to take animals anymore, my first show “I misbehaved”. I was, at reflection; from years ago was that least, expecting him to come over every taxi driver was happy to take and ask me how I was, if I and my both you and your pets and plenty dogs were okay, but no he just stared of luggage and they would step out to at me. open the door for you. Today, it can I have to admit, at that moment be difficult to get a taxi and if you are I was furious at both the old man lucky to get one to stop, they rarely and his aggressive dogs. I carried my want to take you to your destination; facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 145
it’s too far, too much traffic (rot tit mam) or they don’t know the destination. Or that they begrudgingly accept to drive you, but for a large fee without turning the meter on. I ask myself, how come, why have the drivers attitudes changed so much within a few years? I admit that I think they should be better paid. The small sum of 35B, to pick you up, is peanuts. I ask myself, why hasn’t the government raised that amount? It has been the same since I arrived I think. I don’t think anyone would be against a small increase. You are not allowed to take your pets on the BTS (Skytrain) or MRT (Underground) either. Even if you carry them in a basket, bag or cage, they are not welcome. Could it be, that as of today, many people are allergic? It might be an explanation, but they search the trains with sniffer dogs on and off...
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“You find out quickly who your real friends are when you have a problem and need help. I am a lucky one, surrounded by many faithful and caring friends.” To be an owner of pets without your the police station to report the case. own transport, makes complicated. I I was surprised when we entered did manage, after quite a while, to get the police station to see how many a taxi driver who accepted me and people were lining up, waiting for a my dog and we went to the vet. Thank police officer to listen to their case. you to that guy. He received a good tip That Sunday, a girl from Morocco had from me and a warm smile. been slapped in a disco by two men You find out quickly who your real without passports; an elderly man had friends are when you have a problem been drugged by a Thai woman and and need help. I am lucky, surrounded forced to withdraw a large amount by many faithful and caring friends. I of money from an ATM machine. was picked up by a Thai girlfriend, also He was on his way to leave Thailand a pet owner, from the vet and taken to and now needed help urgently. You
certainly need patience when you are visiting the police station. At the Lumpini, they offer 17 translators of different nationalities, all more or less fluent in Thai, a huge help for us foreigners. That Sunday, one of my Swedish friends was working and took care of me (God bless her). Back to the “place of the crime” and we waited for 2 policemen on motorbikes to come. Together we went to pay a visit to the old man, as I knew where he lived. The door opened and there was this smile again. My girlfriend gave me a sign to keep my mouth shut and let her and the police officers do the talking. Maybe good that I only know Thai just “nid noi” (very little), made it easier to keep quiet. The man started to say “I pay, I pay”, strange that the first thing that Thai people think of is money as adverse to an apology... I saw the doctor. In Sweden, I would I would have appreciated a “Sorry have had to wait for hours without mam” but not a word of apology. He said he was too old anyone asking about me, at least in the hospitals in the big cities. and weak to keep The friendly doctor examined the 2 dogs and in me, listened to my story and ordered that case he was Xrays for both my hand and foot. As completely right. the pain wasn’t too bad, I was sure To make a long nothing serious had happened but, story short, we to my disappointment, I had a bone got his confession fracture in my foot. OMG I thought, and name and what is going to happen now? I could leave for thought about my coming busy weeks the hospital to see with meetings, fitness, teaching etc. At what injures I had this point, I lost my composure and sustained. started to cry and tremble. The doctor I used to say, if tried to convince me that neither a cast you have to get or surgery was necessary - it could be injured or getting worse. Sure maybe so, but I would not sick, Thailand is be able to go on with my daily, busy the place to be. It life and that made me worry and sad... has, in my eyes, as if the globe would stop rotating the best hospitals without me. and service I have To start with, he put on a cast experienced. My and what could I do, I had to accept friend drove me it. If your foot is not better within a to “my” hospital week, we might have to consider an and I went to operation he said... Stay and rest at the Emergency home, cancel all duties for at least Room. Friendly a week, was his advice. I was at that staff welcomed moment so unhappy, lonely and felt me, a wheelchair sorry for myself. was there and a During the first few days, trying few minutes later
to move with help of crutches, I have a completely new understanding of disabled people. Who am I to complain, this condition will not last forever I have to tell myself. Suddenly you start to think in another way. An old friend of mine, who himself had to be hospitalised here during his visit, told me that maybe this was meant to be, maybe I needed a break, maybe it would bring me some new thoughts and many more maybe’s... I don’t know, but I might learn how to become a little more patient, not taking my way of living for granted, realising who my real, true friends are and who cares for me... I now have time to sit and think through things, to appreciate health and take time out to cuddle my 2 dogs. An old expression says “there is nothing that doesn’t bring something good”. I don’t know if I believe that, but it doesn’t make any difference. I am happy I am quite strong and well trained, it makes the situation easier. I have learned to appreciate life and not take it for granted, probably the most important lesson of all. Time will show what the next step will be, I hope for the best.
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Simple Kimchi Recipe Ingredients • 2.5 lbs Napa cabbage, stemmed and cut lengthwise • 6 to 8 cups + 1 tablespoon water, filtered or distilled • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt • 5 garlic cloves, minced • 2 daikon radishes, trimmed and cut into matchsticks • 1 bundle scallions, trimmed, cut into 1 inch sections • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated • 3 to 5 tablespoons coarse Korean red pepper flakes • 1 teaspoon white sugar
A love for Kimchi
by Kathleen Pokrud, Past President of the International Women’s Club of Thailand
imchi is Korea’s national dish and and one that’s eaten with virtually every meal. A staple in Korean cuisine, it is a traditional side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables. I love this dish, and always been fascinated by its making. Many Korean friends tell me that since the process is fermentation, each time the dish is made even with the same recipes and ingredients, the taste can vary. In Korea, the family Kimchi recipe is a Guarded Secret. There are more than 300 different varieties of Kimchi, depending on the main vegetable ingredient used, and the region or season in which they’re made. I was told that many Korean husbands take pride in the multiple varieties of home made Kimchi made by their wives. As such, the taste of your Kimchi can make or break your family’s meal and, in the case of company, a poor quality batch can be a social embarrassment.
Kimchi made with different vegetables as the main ingredients. Traditionally, Kimchi was stored underground in jars to keep cool and unfrozen during the winter months. Today, Kimchi refrigerators are more commonly used; these are designed specifically to meet the storage requirements of Kimchi types and different fermentation processes. Kimchi usually becomes too sour when stored in a conventional refrigerator for over a week. In contrast, Kimchi can be stored in a Kimchi refrigerator for up to 4 months without losing its qualities. Kimchi is mainly served as a side dish with every meal, but also can be served as a main dish. Kimchi is globally recognised as a spicy fermented cabbage dish, but there are currently more than 300 varieties using other vegetables as well. These variations of Kimchi continue to grow, and the taste can vary depending on the region and season.
Background on Kimchi Kimchi is prepared and enjoyed in many varieties. It makes an excellent side dish or pre-meal appetiser. It can also be added to soups, stews or rice dishes. There are hundreds of varieties of
Health benefits of Kimchi As a tangy tasty superfood, Kimchi has many health benefits. Kimchi is a lowcalorie, high fibre, and nutrient packed side dish. It is a storehouse of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin C and offers the
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following benefits: 1. Promotes digestion. 2. Has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. 3. Rich in powerful antioxidants. 4. Boosts the immune system. 5. Anti-ageing qualities. 6. Contains anti-cancer properties, and helps prevent stomach cancer. 7. 150 grams of Kimchi contains only 40 calories. Kimchi demonstration Madame Oh Chungwha, the spouse of the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, hosted the Kimchi demonstration and luncheon entitled “Make your own Kimchi to take home”. The event was well attended and participants learned a great lesson on the history of Kimchi. IWC International Food & Tourism Fair 2018 IWC is hosting another International Food Fair in May, following on the huge success last year where over 270 members and friends of IWC participated in the luncheon. Many international ladies groups were represented. We are rebranding this
year to include the tourism aspects of various countries. To honour the cultural exchange which is the main objective of the IWC International Food & Tourism Fair, there will be a display of international food by individual countries. Foreign embassies in Thailand which will display tourism information include Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, the Philippines and others. Entertainment will comprise a fashion show of jewellery and handbags, a cultural performance, and a Best Dressed Contest of International Costumes. Vendor tables will provide products for sale and attractive raffle prizes of country baskets. The IWC International Food & Tourism Fair aims to foster cultural exchange between international expatriates and Thai communities, and we hope the event will be a fundraising opportunity to provide financial resources for projects that promote the education of less fortunate young girls as well as the empowerment of women.
IWC International Food Fair International Women’s Club of Thailand presents: The IWC International Food & Tourism Fair 2018 Tasty cuisine from around the world cultural performance Jewellery & handbags fashion show Best dressed contest of international costume Attractive raffle prizes Date: 10th May 2018 (Thursday) Time: Bazaar 10am Registration 11:30am Lunch 12:00 noon Venue: Novotel Sukhumvit Soi 20 Bangkok (02 009 4999) Dress code: International attire Menu: International buffet Price: 1,200B Proceeds from this charity event will support education and women’s empowerment projects.
Cooking directions 1. Rinse and prep cabbage. Cut cabbage into strips and place in mixing bowl. 2. Pour cabbage into a strainer and rinse under cool running water. 3. Combine sugar, pepper flakes, and sugar in a small mixing bowl. 4. Meanwhile, rinse and prep daikon, ginger, scallions and garlic. 5. Combine the ingredients and pack into Mason jar.
Contact: Nora Kositamongkol 081 936 0778 Atchara Hall 081 848 0980
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Hi Tech subtleties of online crypto trading. If you want to increase your chances at being more successful, maybe you can add some consideration to your recipe. 1. Nobody knows what will happen to the crypto market. The market is still in its infancy, the conditions are constantly changing and by opposition to the stock market, we are lacking the historical data to draw proper conclusion or even to design a good strategy.
Crypto trading 101 by Bernard Collin
fter my previous article on crypto currency, I received a numerous questions about traditional trading and crypto trading. People want to know if there are similarities and how they can learn to develop into a better “home” trader.
For some exchanges, you can even fund your first coins with your credit card. (search Google to find out which ones will take a credit card). There is a cost incurred for paying with a CC that is high but getting into an exchange with FIAT currency is not a simple process.
This might require a step back to some origins. My interest as a trader started when eTrade.com launched their service in Australia, around 1998, they were part of ANZ bank and have recently shut down, ANZ taking over the operation. It is also when the Diffie-Hellman team created the concept of asymmetric encryption, used since then in security of internet transactions and the main component of crypto currency.
The second important point is that depending on your choice of exchange, you can trade with very little money and the cost of buying and selling is extremely low compared with trading with shares. So you can learn you way around and lose very little if you change your mind. The third one is that the tools available today to assist with your investment are very reliable, very understandable, easy to access and most of the time free. The best ones I found were totally free, and the paying ones can occasionally turn to be dangerous schemes.
There are a lot of get rich schemes published on the internet and many have tried unsuccessfully to follow the strategies. Trading online is a very difficult business, mainly because of Also, today with the popularity of YouTube, you can learn the attachment people develop with money. A cool investor so much in a very short time and it is not that difficult if is probably akin to a cool poker player, you need to keep a you have a bit of time on your hand to have a go at “home straight head when difficult decisions must be made, and trading”. With a bit of flair, a lot of research, a dose of when you see your precious money slipping away, it is hard patience, and a glass (or two) of good wine, you are all set not to have a knee jerk reaction and lose it all or at most of to start venturing on the internet with a good chance of it... picking a few good buys. Is investing in crypto any different from share trading? At first I would say no, it is quite similar, and tools and strategies are the same. There are a few serious differences though quite easy to grasp. First when you trade in crypto, opening an account on an exchange is very easy, go online, 10 min and you are all set. 150 APRIL/MAY www.expatlifethailand.com
2. Governments are still wondering how to treat the crypto. Should we consider Bitcoin and others as a currency like the USD or EURO, or is it a commodity that we buy like goods to store. The implication of taxes becomes quite important if it is considered a commodity, however if it is a currency, applying tax to a currency that you have not realised is another story. Russia just approved Bitcoin to be legal, Venezuela is discussing using crypto as a national currency… Australia and Japan have decided on currency, with not applicable sales tax. 3. Crypto are super volatile. The market is heavily influenced and manipulated by the people who own the largest parts of crypto. A very small percentage of Bitcoin owners have more than 80% of the currencies, it is easy for them to move them around dramatically impacting the perceived value. The past month shockwaves through the market were quite significant. 4. The Bull run can’t continue like this. The market grew 14 times last year, bit coins went from 20USD to 20,000USD in 4 years, so many currencies multiplied their value so rapidly, it can’t continue like this… It will slow down or crash, or at least this is what you hear every day. In the meantime, there is good money to be made. 5. Will the bubble explode? When people compare crypto with the dot com crash, I think they do not realise the huge difference in size between the 2 markets. Compared with the dot com, crypto are still in their infancy and represent a
drop in the ocean compared with where the dot com where at their crash. Now, considering the above, why and how should you consider investing in crypto. There are many coins today, there will be more tomorrow and a significant percentage will disappear in the next year or so. The rule number one is to make sure you pick the coins that will stay. Don’t buy on emotion, or good sounding names! There are a number of solid proven coins that have the biggest chance or staying and growing: Bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, Monero Then you will find coins with less solidity but a proven track record of being based on interesting ideas or technology: EOS, IOTA, Ox, Komodo, Enigma, Watson You will also find coins with solid sponsors: BNB, NEO, OMG, BCC, ETC The fourth level would require to read more about the companies producing the coins, the purpose of their coin, the solidity of their business model, the chance of being adopted, the problem they solve, the cost of operating them. This is where the patience will play, being able to read through hundreds of document and have the flair to pick the real good ones. Be aware that today, we are still looking for a coin that will complement, even maybe take over the dominance of Bitcoin, based on the original theory, with massive operating costs, low speed operation and expensive to mine. That is the one you should have in your portfolio. Once you have decided on all this, you will need to agree whether you want to be an investor who buys and hold onto them, whatever happens, or you want to be a trader, who buys low and sells high… repeatedly. Good luck!
What are the risks? Well the best advice is that as you are not a professional, you should assume that there is a strong possibility that you will lose your initial investment, so rule number one, do not invest money that you cannot afford to lose without impacting your lifestyle. Consider this investment “play money” while you are learning the arcane facebook.com/expatlifethailand.com APRIL/MAY 151
Health American journalist who has done extensive research and written some great books on food, diet and culture. 1. Eat (real) food In a nutshell this means eating real, whole, unrefined and minimally processed foods. When you look at your plate you should be able to recognise the ingredients and know where they came from. No food from boxes or packages that have a long list of ingredients most of which are hard to recognise.
What do I eat? Eat (real) food. Mostly plants. Not too much. by Monique Jhingon
’m so confused”, Heather told me. “I have tried going gluten free, I have reduced dairy and sugar, I eat loads of vegetables and salads yet I still bloat up like a balloon after most meals. It is uncomfortable and even painful at times. Worst of all, I look like I’m 4 months pregnant most of the time. I’m so sick of this, please help me figure out what to eat.. !” “What do I eat?”- It’s a loaded question that pops up when we don’t feel good and when we suspect that food is either part of the problem or the solution. Like
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in Heather’s case. She was obviously reacting to what she was eating and she wanted to know which foods triggered her digestive issues. Other times the question of what to eat is triggered by an overload of often conflicting information about health and nutrition. One day there is a documentary on the television about the benefits of being vegan, the next day you stumble on an article that gives sound arguments for eating an ancestral, paleo type diet with plenty of animal protein. One health expert says low fat is the best, the other tells you to eat a ketogenic (high fat) diet. Who are you to believe? Being an expat and living in parts of the world very different from the one you grew up in can add to the confusion. Do you hold on to your traditional diet and go out of your way to find ingredients of your native cuisine or do you embrace local foods? None of these questions troubled our ancestors. They just ate according what was locally and seasonally available.
We however, have access to foods from all over the world at any given time. Given all these factors it is no surprise that there is growing confusion around food. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that it is next to impossible to answer the question of what to eat in a simple and straightforward manner. The truth is that it depends. What you need to eat is influenced by many different factors such as your state of health, personal taste, genes, age, physical activity, culture, tradition, beliefs, and environment. Despite this, there are a few core principles that form the foundation of a healthy diet for anyone, anywhere. Whether you are bloating up like Heather, or you have any other health issues, this is where you begin. Eat (real) food. Mostly plants. Not too much. These 3 simple yet powerful rules were written by Michael Pollan, an
2. Mostly plants Whether your body loves animal protein or whether you are a vegetarian, plant foods are the most critical component of your diet. You want to include a range of rainbow coloured vegetables in every meal. This is what supplies your body with important nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemical’s. All of these are essential to build and maintain a strong immune system, detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms, all of which help to protect us from chronic disease. To get started, begin by including more rainbow-coloured fruits and especially vegetables in your diet. This is a perfect way to start crowding out unhealthy foods and to begin noticing an instant increase in energy. 3. Not too much Overeating, as well as unlimited snacking between meals contributes to health problems and interferes with proper digestion and blood sugar regulation. This is where it becomes important to slow down and eat your meals
slowly, with awareness and in a relaxed setting. To chew your food properly, savour the taste, and recognise when you have had enough. To wait a few hours before you eat again so that your digestive system can complete its job, uninterrupted! One day in the not so distant future we will be able to run routine blood tests that tell us what to eat: the percentage of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) that is right for each of us. Current genetic testing is already being used as a tool to help inform on some level which foods are good or not as a result of a person’s genetic predispositions. There is no doubt that these tests can be extremely useful but the question remains whether we want or should rely on them to tell us what to eat. While testing may be necessary to investigate underlying health imbalances and identify the best temporary healing diet to help resolve health issues, in the long run what we
need is to go back to basics: eat real food, mostly plants and not too much. It may sound too simple but it works. Heather did exactly that. We identified her ‘trigger foods’, she adopted a temporary elimination diet to allow her digestive system to heal and she learned how to tune in and listen to her body, which in the end is the most powerful way to decipher what to eat. Monique Jhingon is a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner who offers select private coaching to expats whose health and digestion has been compromised as a result of transitioning into new environments, cultures, climates and foods. You can read more on her website and sign up for a free Nutrition Breakthrough Session here: www.moniquejhingon.com
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THE GATHERING FAITHFUL Sunday concert at the Göthe Institute. La Serva Padrona IWC February Luncheon
Kuwait invited to celebrate the National Day at Intercontinental Hotel. As usual a great mixture of guests and a most charming Ambassador. Great finger food and the obligatory speeches. The Ambassador himself looks like Laurence of Arabia or the actor Omar Sharif. A charming, colourful man. SWEA Professional, a newly started group for Swedish business women, women who have worked and women who want to work. This group will focus on lectures and visits to different companies. On the 22/02 a group of 9 women visited the company Pecunia Asset Management and listened to the CEO, Founder and Partner Mr Niklas Blomqvist and Branch Manager & Senior Advisor Mr Carl-Johan Lindström. This evening we were taught a lot about how important financial planning is and what you have to think about when you retire, or better before you retire. On a beautiful evening January the 20th, around 400 guests gathered together in the garden at the Portuguese residence for a charity evening with funds, handled over to the Shepherd Sisters. The tables were nicely decorated and the guests dressed up good and in a festive mood. We were greeted by Ambassador Francisco and his spouse Kevin and the Irish Ambassador Brendan and his partner Kevin. Irish entertainment and a fashion show among speeches and much more. A real special night. IWC Luncheon on Thursday 22 nd at the Novotel Hotel on Sukhumvit 20, had the theme “Let’s go pink, a month of love”. As usual the lunch started with the bazaar. Most attending women had dressed in pink and flowers and many elegant fascinaters and hats were seen.
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Event and charity evening for the Good Shepherd Sisters at the Portuguese residence
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SWEA pays a visit to Pecunia Asset Management at the RSU Tower Sukhumvit Soi 31
IWCâ€™s Diplomatic coffee morning at the Dusit Thani Hotel
International Womens Club of Thailand
15 years anniversary at Bromsgrove School
Estonia concert at Thailand Cultural Center
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Kuwaitâ€™s National Day at Intercontinental Hotel
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Celebrating 60 Years A proud tradition of learning excellence
Glitz and Glam International Women’s Day fundraising fashion show
We oﬀer a British-style education for an international community, from Nursery through to Graduation. Find out how our approach to learning and outstanding teaching staﬀ develop global citizens who shape their world through independence, empathy, creativity and critical thinking. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org www.patana.ac.th | +66 (0) 2785 2200 | 643 Lasalle Road, Bangkok 10260
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The King's Cup Elephant Polo at Anantara
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