My First Coup

I know it’s not like me to write about current events, but there is no possible way I can ignore this one.

I have been trying to write this piece for several days. It has undergone many revisions, edits and rewrites as on rereading it was unpublishable, for many reasons, in the present climate.

So I deleted everything I had written and started again.

As most of you will be aware by now the country which I now call home has undergone some rather radical changes in the past week.

On the 20 th may at 3am the Thai Royal Army announced through a television broadcast that it was assuming control of security and peacekeeping duties and the whole of the kingdom was now under the rule of Martial law. This was to put an end to the protests between rival political groups in the Capital which had been ongoing since November of last year and were escalating to a point that was no longer acceptable.

The following two days saw the protest sites of both camps closed down and the protesters dispersed while the chief of the army General Prayuth Chan-ocha gathered the key figures from both political parties in order to seek a resolution to the crisis.

On May 22nd, seeing no advance in the discussions the general assumed control of national administration and a coup d’état was announced on all national television stations.

Since then it has been hard to keep up with developments.

Large numbers of troops have been mobilised and there is an extremely visible presence on the streets of most large cities.

All of the politicians and civil servants who were at the meetings were detained and many more have since been requested to report to the military.

The senate has been disbanded and all law making powers rest in the hands of the military under the name of the National Council for Peacekeeping and Order (NCPO)

All TV stations ceased regular broadcast, ( although most have now been reinstated)

A national curfew has been imposed during the hours of 22.00 – 05.00, with exception of essential services, transportation of food, and those with legitimate travel plans.

Certain international and domestic web sites have been blocked as they were deemed to be promoting instability or of being critical of the coup.

A ban has been placed on all political gatherings of 5 persons or more.
Despite this ban there were a number of anti-coup protests in Bangkok and here in Chiang Mai on the 24th on May, which in the main passed of peacefully with only a handful of arrests.

On 25 May 2014, the NCPO authorised the military courts to try all cases concerning lèse majesté, sedition, national security or violation of NCPO orders.
In military courts, civilians are not allowed to have themselves represented by lawyers.

This is a very brief summary of some of the key events that have taken place over the last week.

Obviously I am unable to make comment on these events as we are operating under extremely strict rules regarding both the activities of the military and civilian populations. There are many good sources of information available outside of the borders of the kingdom if you wish to look into this further or if you are unfamiliar with the strictures of martial law or the details of lèse majesté.

Whilst I’m certain that the general has far more important things to do with his time than to trawl the internet reading through ex-pat blogs I’m not ever so keen to be among those who are testing this theory so I shall be keeping my opinions very much to myself. In the words of the character Francis Urquhart, ( or Francis Underwood if you happen to be a fan of U.S television drama), ” I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly comment “.

Now how is all this affecting the life of Small person and I.

Well in all honesty, not a lot.
Other than an extra day off school for small person on the 23rd it hasn’t really had an impact on our day to day living. As I do have a small person in the house, being out after 10pm is rarely an issue. And getting out of bed and out of the house before 5 am is unheard of. I’m not really one for protests, certainly not in a country where I am a recent arrival and whose politics are far more involved than anyone who has been here for only 9 months can have more than a basic grasp of at best.

Day to day life in the city is carrying on in an almost normal fashion with very little disruption. There is a large military presence in the city, but on the whole the few soldiers I have come into contact with have been courteous and friendly and have been extremely helpful at stopping the traffic to allow small person and I to cross the busy main road when the traffic lights were broken.

Clearly this is an extremely fragile time for this wonderful country, and we are not naive enough to believe that it will be plain sailing from here on in, but as of this moment we are happy, at peace and safe.

No-one knows what is going to happen over the course of the next days, weeks or months, I pray with all of my heart that Thailand will emerge from this time as a stronger and more unified country and that democracy will be restored. But until such time as that happens we just need to be vigilant, but most of all ( and much as I hate to use this hackneyed phrase it does seem rather appropriate in the circumstances), just keep calm and carry on.

Jer Gan Mài

Time For A Nice Cup of Tea.

Why didn’t anybody tell me that tea can be nice?*

I have never liked tea. Ever. And I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried, but I just can’t stomach tea.

I’ve tried ‘normal tea’, builders tea**, hippie tea***, earl grey tea, Assam tea, Oolong tea, saffron tea and on one memorable occasion Vietnamese green tea with condensed milk, and I just don’t like tea. I don’t even like the smell.

Technically I should like tea. For one thing I’m Scottish and its practically pre-programmed into our genetic base code that we “do like a nice wee cuppa tea”‘.

I grew up surrounded by tea as my family held with base genetics and (with the exception of my mother who can’t abide the stuff) were, and are to this day, tea monsters. I mean they do drink coffee, but they prefer tea. I mean actually would rather drink tea than coffee. It blows my mind.

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Some of my friends even drink tea.

Most of my friends drink coffee, but some of them drink tea.

When I was a younger I had a minor operation on my wrist, nothing to write home about, no complications.
Apart from afterwards when the stitches got infected and my wrist swelled up like a balloon. Thankfully my mother was on hand to bring her many years of nursing training into full effect and removed the stitches and the end result is nothing more dramatic than a weird scar on the inside of my left wrist that looks like a squashed bug.

As I was saying, the operation was a complete success and the wonderful nurse was at my bedside waiting for the anesthetic to wear off. As I began to stir she very kindly went to fetch me a hot cup of tea, and wafted it under my nose as a gentle encouragement to wake. It definitely worked, but probably not in quite the manner she had intended. Im not sure which was worse, the smell of the nurses vomit soaked shoes wafting up from under my bed or the smell of the tea that invoked that response.

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So you get the picture. I don’t really dig on tea.

But since we have moved here, something rather curious has happened. I’ve started to drink tea. Not milk and sugar biscuit dunking tea, but tea nonetheless and some of it has been less than unpleasant.

You see in a lot of cafés here, you will be served tea, regardless of whether you want it or not. When you order a sit down coffee, it will usually be accompanied by a small glass of tea and a small glass of water for you to drink once you have finished your coffee.

My first coffee-tea was delivered by the loveliest lady who runs a small cafe which is rather conveniently located just across the road from where small person gets dropped off from school and on the very rare occasion that I am early, I will sit and order a coffee. And get a tea. Obviously given my tea loathing status, I was rather dubious, but the twin desires of not wishing to offend and being determined to soak up as much of my new city as I could, I had a sip of the tea. The most surprising thing about it was that I wasn’t instantly sick. The second most surprising thing was that it was actually nice. Really actually nice.

This shock to the system left me reeling it has to be said, and I still regard tea with suspicion, but I have returned many times to this little coffee shop not only for the exceptionally good coffee, but also for the tea ( and occasionally for the delicious watermelon ice lollies that she has in the freezer ) .

Endeavoring to discover where you could buy this magical blend of tea it turns out that it is in fact a Chinese black tea, and to fully enjoy the taste it should be drunk when piping hot. Now this I can get behind as there is nothing more offensive to my palate than a warm drink. I have been known to down an entire mug of coffee before a normal person would consider it safe to pass their lips, and there is little more disappointing that a cup that has been allowed to sit too long and take on tepid qualities. Likewise with a drink that is meant to be cold, just shy of freezing is my preferred temperature. The only acceptable exception to this rule is mulled wine.

But back to the tea.

I decided that I would drink more tea, not go as far as order it you understand, but the range of coffee-teas that are served in Chiang mai is vast. And I have tried all of them. I was actually quite delighted that after a massage I was given a few moments to sit and sip hot tea before entering back into the city scrum.

I still don’t like hippie teas*** and the thought of a builders** brew makes me nauseous, but there really is something quite wonderful about a simple delicate Chinese black tea . Who would have thought??

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Jer Gan Mài

* Of course many people have tried to convince me over the years that tea is a good thing. I just simply didn’t believe them.
**builders tea- tea made from bags that have been stewing for so long that when milk is added it looks bright orange. Sometimes known as fake-tan tea.
***hippie tea- any kind of fruity/herbal tea bag concoction that is wafted over a mug of hot water before serving. Let’s be honest here it’s not even tea, its flowers in hot water.

With Thanks to Saint Anthony of Padua*

I’ve found something that I thought was lost forever !

I’ve found something that I thought was lost forever !

In the process of trawling through the many and varied folders full of irrelevant pap that are stored on our computer, I found all the files from my old Blog 🙂
I started blogging in 2008 ( ! ) When we moved to France and began our Ex-Pat journey, primarily as a way to keep extended family and friends ‘in the loop’ of our lives. Once I had started though I found that I wrote more and more for myself.
From April 2008-December 2009 I blogged on my, now defunct, website but the discovery of WordPress and the ease of use it offered compared to the upkeep of a stand alone website changed all that. In February 2010, ( not sure what happened to January), I began blogging on this page, always with the intention of creating an archive of my previous work. As with most of my intentions this fell by the wayside and over time and through various house and computer changes it became quite clear that I had no idea where I had stored my files, and despite many searches I found nothing and feared that the recycle bin had somehow been the recipient of those 2 years in one of my ‘tidying up’ purges.

Tonight I found them. This makes me very happy.

 

While I have resisted the urge to re-read most of them there were a few that caught my attention and I have had an evening full of memories and mixed emotions.

Instead of reading through them all I have copied my files form an obscure folder containing all sorts of curiously out of date documents and they now sit in pride of place on my desktop, waiting to be archived on this very page. This will mean a little re-jigging over the next week or two to settle them in so please bare with my site as I want to be able to organise them in a way that is easy to re-read and doesn’t cause too much clutter.

This may take a while.

I will be sure to let you all know when they are live so you can, if you wish, join me on a stroll down memory lane.

 

Jer Gan Mai

*Saint Anthony of Padua. The patron Saint of lost things 🙂

 

Now if he could just help out with my keys…….

Stormy weather

As I sit here typing I have no idea if the power will be on long enough for me to post ( or even finish ). There is a storm rolling in over doi Suthep , and I’m lying here in bed watching the lightning get closer and closer. I can’t see the lights of the temple on the mountain, which either means the clouds are really low ofrthere is a ferocious curtain of rain headed our way. Of course it could mean both.

There have been many storms of late in Chiang Mai, each one seemingly , larger and more powerful than the last. The summer is giving way to the rainy season. But it’s not giving up without a fight. It will not give way with a whimper it seems, but with a mighty roar.

The time between the ‘flash and bang’ is getting shorter. The thunder sounds angry. It is rolling inexorably towards us, gathering pace and sound and fury as the noise wraps itself around the house like an angry lion circling its helpless prey. At first a gentle purr that grows in its throat to a frightening guttural growl and all the while we are waiting for it to unleash its powerful terrifying roar, knowing it will come, waiting to hear the beast unleash the full power from between his gaping jaws.

And yet for all its bravado and bluster it is not the thunder we need to fear, but it noiseless, dazzling, brilliant companion. As the time between each flash diminishes, it is no longer just silhouetting the mountain range, flattening the panorama, bleaching out the colours and contours of the land. Turning the verdant landscape into a monochrome caricature of itself. No longer is it content to hide behind the mountain, it has breached the hills and is throwing its searing forks indiscriminately towards the land.

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A sudden burst of light outside the window makes me gasp, the trees on the land next door glimpsed for a split second, the bright green leaves of the banana trees so rich and vibrant in that moment, clearer and crisper than when seen under the midday sun. And almost before it appeared, it is gone, leaving only a memory. But it’s only when you close your eyes that you see the imprint of the lightning bolt that was, for a brief second, just outside your window. So close to where you are.

There is so much light and so much noise. I am afraid.

And yet I know I’m as safe as I can be. This is not our first storm of the week. On Monday this same scenario was playing out before my eyes and ears , albeit at a more sociable hour. On Monday the family were huddled in the living room waiting for it to pass. But it didn’t pass. As we sat, enthrall end by the raging storm there was a deafening crack and we were thrown into darkness. We had our torches and our touch screens at the ready, but as we came to terms with the loss of power we became aware that our neighbours still had lights on. The streets were still illuminated. It was only us in the dark.

A random bolt of lightning had chosen our house to be its point of contact with the earth. A massive surge of power had ( thank goodness) tripped the main breaker and our shelter had absorbed and dissipated the terrifying amount of energy before we had the wit to realise what had happened. We stayed sheltered in the gloom until the storm had exhausted itself, offering silent prayers of thanks to the structure around us for keeping is safe.

I lie here on this early morning, issuing yet more silent prayers amidst this awesome display of power, both enthralled and afraid by the scale of this storm, watching and waiting for any sign of retreat. I wish I could sleep as soundly as the small person next to me, unknowing and unburdened by the fear that lightning could well strike twice.

Jer Gan Mài.

Did the earth move for you darling?

So tonight I was all ready to post a blog about His Majesty The King, it is after all a national holiday today to mark the anniversary of his coronation. But at around 6pm something happened that changed my mind. Something big and a little bit scary.

So tonight I was all ready to post a blog about His Majesty The King, it is after all a national holiday today to mark the anniversary of his coronation, I had done my research and had my notes ready to compile. But I’m afraid that post will have to wait until another day.

At around 6pm something happened that changed my mind. Something big and a little bit scary.

I was on the phone to hubby casually chatting about the days events and all of a sudden my tummy started to feel a bit odd. Now its not unknown for me to get a few butterflies from time to time when I’m talking to my belovéd, ( even after all these years 😉 ), but he’s never actually made me feel queasy before. It was then I noticed that the tv was rocking gently before my eyes and I had a fleeting worry that I was about to faint. My fear of fainting was soon overtaken by a deeper concern as I noticed that not only was the tv moving but the pictures hanging on the wall behind it were swaying from side to side. Simultaneously I became aware that my feet were moving too, even though I was sitting down and they were flat on the floor, which could only mean that the floor too, in fact the whole house, was having a not insignificant wobble.  I tried not to panic as I grabbed small ones hand and dragged her into the garden whilst my poor, dear husband had to listen to me verbalising these events on the end of a phone 6000 miles away. It wasn’t till I was almost through the door that my thought process  caught up with my physical awareness and the word “earthquake” arrived in my brain.

By the time we were in the garden, less than 30 seconds since it had begun, the ground had resumed its usual and much more welcome position of reassuringly solid and the only visible signs of something awry were the hanging orchids swinging from side to side in the still, calm evening air. I handed the phone to small person as I did a quick perimeter check of the house to ensure there were no blown out windows or new cracks in the masonry and was satisfied that no obvious damage had occurred. As I finished the circuit of the house I noticed the garden wall, which has never been the sturdiest of structures, had sustained some damage, but other than that we appeared to be in the clear.

Several large cracks appeared in the mid section
Several large cracks have appeared in the mid-section

I spoke again to my worried sick husband and assured him that we would be staying outside for a little while in case of aftershocks, and that I would speak to him again soon.

Then I did what had to be done.

Within seconds I had confirmed via twitter that it had indeed been an earthquake, and not a small one. A 6.3 magnitude quake had been recorded by the USGS, ( United States geological survey), 12km south of Chiang Rai, which makes that just over 130km of us here in Chiang Mai, but that there were, thank goodness, no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.

Epicentre 10km south of Chiang Rai
Epicentre 10km south of Chiang Rai

Then I took to Facebook to let my friends and family know that all was well should they hear news of an earthquake in Northern Thailand, and of course to swap immediate news and ‘quake stories’ with my fellow residents of this fair city. In the immediate aftermath it became clear that whilst there have been a few reports of structural damage, there was nothing major to report other than a sense of overwhelming relief that we seemed to have got off so lightly.

This is not my first earthquake, I’m up to 4 now, but this is the first big one. The others were insignificant by comparison, registering as no more than a momentary shift that had to be confirmed by news reports after the fact ( and one not registering at all as it happened while I was asleep and was so small that it was barely there at all).  However I very much suspect that it won’t be my last. Whist not on a par with ‘the ring of fire’ or the San Andreas Fault, Thailand, I have discovered, is no stranger to earthquakes. The area between Chiang Rai, the epicentre of todays quake, and Chiang Mai sits on right on top of the Mae Chen Fault and over the past 40 years, Thailand has experienced mid-sized earthquakes (magnitudes 5.0-5.9) 8 times, or once every 5 years. 5 of these tremors struck in the north, while the other 3 were centred in the west. Virtually all earthquakes recorded in Thailand are under magnitude 6.0*, but todays was clocked at an impressive and rather scary 6.3.
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There have been reports of some small aftershocks in Chiang Mai at around 7.30, but I didn’t feel anything personally. Possibly as I was being pulled headlong into a series of storm drains by my dog who was making great sport out of chasing lizards on his nightly stroll around that time.

But of course it wasn’t just me that felt the earth move this evening and its time to look at things from small persons perspective.

After her initial period of wide-eyed wonderment at feeling the floorboards shimmy beneath her feet, and telling  daddy that it was ‘just like being in the earthquake room’ at the Museum of Natural History in London, she quickly lost patience with my insistence that we stay outside in the garden for while, just in case. Her impatience grew even stronger when she realised that her beloved ipad was just too far away from the router inside to pick up the wifi.

My request that she was to go to bed in our room tonight (which in all honesty is more for my comfort than hers), was treated with not a small amount of disdain, until she remembered that you get much better Internet in our room than hers and suddenly decided she was a bit too scared to go to sleep straight away but she would probably be ok if I let her play mine-craft for half an hour…. As I went up to declare the final bed time I asked her if she was ok, to which she replied ;
‘Honestly mum, what’s the matter with you tonight,  it was only an earthquake’.

Jer Gan Mài

 

*source ; source http://www.cicc.chula.ac.th/en/current-campaign/203-likelihood-of-earthquakes-in-thailand.html