Advice to my 19-year-old Self: Monday Musings

As I look down at the skin discoloration and new freckles on my sun-damaged arms and hands, I silently berate myself for not having stayed out of the sun or, at the very least, worn some serious sunscreen when I was younger.  The harsh reality is, once you cross over that proverbial middle-aged number (I like to think of it as a moving target, but I know in my heart of hearts I have long since crossed it), all your old vices and bad habits come back to haunt you.

I remember back in the 1990’s there was a song by Baz Luhrmann called “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”.  It was actually more of a speech put to music than a song (click here to listen). Nevertheless, it contained copious amounts of good advice given to a graduating class. It got me to musing, what kind of advice would my older-self give today to my younger-self?

The first one would be to wear sunscreen. Seriously!  I remember in the summer months (and spring and fall whenever possible) in my youth going to the beach or the pool daily and absolutely baking every piece of my legally allowable visible skin.  Sunscreen? That was for sissies. I would slather on a greasy mixture of baby oil and iodine (yes iodine to stain the skin darker) and bake front side and back side in 30-minute increments for hours.

I went on a girl’s trip to the Bahamas after high school graduation and proudly compared myself to the many local’s deep coco skin. I was darker than half of them. Hey 19- year-old self: Dark tans on white girls do not make you look sexy (no matter what Hawaiian Tropic tells you), it only helps insure a visit from the melanoma fairy later in life. Not to mention the loss of elasticity and wrinkles. Argh! Wrinkles!

Secondly, your parents are going to give you good advice. But only to a point. That is right, those annoying adult people who kept laying all those rules on you for all your teenage years?  They were giving you good advice.  They are two of the most important people in your life and will always be, even after they are gone. And they have already crossed over to their middle age. They get it. They lived it. Listen to their advice and respect them. However, do not let their advice rule your decisions completelyFor example,  I thought hs Kat w cameraabout a career in The Arts (read starving artist) when we had to declare a major for higher education. My father steered me towards business because he felt I would make more money and have more stability. Their job was to protect and help keep things secure and comfortable. If I wanted to do something completely adventurous or risky, they would not have been especially supportive. Hey 19-year-old self: Go with your gut. If you feel strongly about doing something outside the box, DO IT.

Third, do not be so shy and cautious! Okay, you are doing better these last few years since the painfully shy child you were in grade school. But I see it still holds you back.  Do not be frightened to be bold. Speak up, reach out, take risks. The greater the risks, the greater the rewards. Remember when you were a freshman in high school and you excelled in Spanish class? You had the opportunity to be a year-long exchange student in Bolivia or Chile or some other exotic South American country, but you opted out because of some unfounded fear. That would have been one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And now you would not be struggling to have command of the Spanish language.  Hey 19-year-old self, it is time to become fearless and forget that you were ever shy.

Fourth, do not get caught up with classmates or friends making fun of people or being unkind. We all have our personal handicaps.  We are all trying to find where we fit in and how this world works. You are no more superior than anyone else on this earth. You may have better skills or opportunities or even beauty, but that does not give you license to be unkind or intolerant. Be a uniter not a divider. 

Fifth, do not play with people’s hearts.  Several men will fall in love with yohs kat dallasu in the future. Some relationships will be beautiful and some not so much. Most of them will end in an unpleasant way. You, most likely, will be the one ending it. Once you know the relationship is not working, be honest and up front.  Do not play with his heart. He will love you and he deserves to be treated with respect.  Make an effort to remain friends, if you desire. If you once really loved one another, he will always have a special place in your heart after the dust settles.

Sixth, eat healthy, drink less alcohol and stay fit.  Sounds silly now, right? You look pretty damn good and you don’t have to worry about weight gain or any health issues.  Guess what? Metabolism changes. Health changes. Suddenly you wonder how cholesterol levels can possibly creep up. And where the heck did those 5 extra kilos come from?  Stay fit for life starting now and don’t miss health check ups. Hey 19-year-old self, you will thank me later.

Seventh, never say “That will never happen to me.” in your cocky littler manner. You have no idea what will or will not happen to you until you live your life.

Eighth, learn to be more patient.  In the upcoming decades you are going to see massive changes in the way we communicate, in the way you do your job, in the way the politics shift. Everything that touches your life will change. For the only constant is change (no, it is not a cliché). This is going to require a lot of patience on your part. You are going to have to relearn and reprogram your brain and your lifestyle. Be patient, with not only your learning process, but with others as well.  Learning new things will be fantastic and also frustrating.  Practice patience.

Ninth, spend time around children and elderly. You don’t spend enough time around either. Start now. You will learn some amazing things from the raw truths spoken by both ends of the life-cycle spectrum.  Hey 19-year-old self, you won’t have kids of your own, but you will have plenty to love in India.

Tenth, travel every chance you can. HS kat in FranceGet out there and discover the world. It will expand your mind, make you more tolerant of different beliefs and thankful for what you have. And yes, you are off to a good start.

Eleventh, do not be so hard on yourself. You will meet plenty of people who will do that for you. You are smarter, cooler, prettier than you think. Just be happy in your  own skin. Hey 19-year old self, they are going to call you eccentric. Take it as a compliment. HS kat with mug

Lastly, get involved. Make a difference.  You have the power to make changes which will make our world better. Even if you don’t believe you can. You can.

You probably won’t take all this advice. I know you better by now than you know yourself. And trust me on the sunscreen!

Monday Musings. What woud you tell YOUR younger self?  Have a great week!




Political Carnage. Where Do We Go From Here? Monday Musings

I received two troubling private messages on social media within a week from one another. One was penned from a previous lover. It was brief and read exactly like this: “I can’t believe the girl I loved back in TX has drifted so far to the Left. If I didn’t have so many fond memories I would unfriend her.” Accompanied by not one, not two, but three sad face emojis.  Directed as if it were not to me, but to an imaginary third person about me.

Yes, it was a political statement from him. Argh, that dirty word, “politics”.   What rings so strange to me is this message was not something he would have said to me back when we were dating. Or at least I do not think he would have. I was in my 20’s living in small-town East Texas at the time and my “starter marriage” – as I like to call it – was falling apart.  Somehow after university I traded my party girl crown for the conservative little homemaker wife title.  It was a role I did not fake very well, although I did try for a few years. This guy saw these alternative facts about me immediately.  You see, it was the political-rave1980’s and it was the time of  gender-bending, make-up wearing men and legal Ecstasy and all night raves. Although this guy had a respectable day job, at night he was out playing. Next thing I knew, I was taken on an extreme carnival ride along with him. And I welcomed it. I was absolutely crazy about him.

Although we lived in the same city for only a short time, we managed to keep in touch and see one another on and off for many years.  He opened my mind about sex and bizarre behavior/opinions in a way that had not been awakened before from my conservative roots. He was outrageous. And the more outrageous behavior he displayed, the more I would mirror. For example, I remember one time we were having dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Dallas.  I ate an atomic hot chili pepper and the frightening results were immediate.  I was having trouble breathing and started sweating like a sinner in church. I stood up and dropped my dress in the restaurant (for effect) while he poured some water on me.  The diners looked on in troubled amazement, while we laughed. I am so glad I grew up in an era of no camera phones.

Truly at that time in my life….and even as the memories of him live on, he was the epitome of “cool”.  We kept in touch occasionally as time went on. Within the last year I was thrilled when I received a friend request from him, as he was not on social media for a long time.  Now this…threatened to be unfriended by one of the coolest people with whom I had shared intimate space. Wow.

To set the record straight (argh, politics), I consider myself to be a fairly moderate democrat.  I absolutely do not agree with the policies of the new administration, nor did I vote for the current POTUS. In fact, there are many times I am outraged and downright frightened by what is going on. Do I think Washington could be run better and cleaner? Absolutely. So I understand why people wanted change.  I have friends, family and clients who are hard-core republicans.  I respect people’s right to vote. And I am not here for name calling or to belittle them for decisions different from mine.  And I would certainly not unfriend someone for their views, unless they were attacking me for mine. The unfollow button is handy too for those ranters from the other side. As many of you know!

I have been around for a long time, voting in 10 US presidential elections (and countless other races).  It seems the best administrations have worked with a moderate, nearer to center congress who compromised to get business accomplished. I feel extremism does not work.  Left, right, Christian, Muslim, racial, whatever. Extremism is simply more divisive.  And the atmosphere feels pretty extreme currently. In fact, after seeing this chart of the USA Congressmen, it is frightening how extremely far away the red side has pulled from center. The most widely used measure of political polarization, a score of ideology based on voting developed by Kenneth Poole and Howard Rosenthal, has shown that the Republicans in the Senate and especially the House have drifted away from the center far more rapidly than Democrats.


The other message came from a girlfriend who I have known for several years. I cherish her friendship.  Seems I have always agreed with her on most everything. And then she called me out on a post telling me I was sounding selfish regarding the Muslim ban because I was annoyed I had to change some travel plans to one of these countries. She felt that I would make a much better case posting about all of the people who are suffering because of the ban, rather than my unhappiness regarding my plans.  (After cooling off, I did see her point and ended up deleting the post).

The discussion was actually a long and somewhat heated (more on her end, I think) online conversation. She, feeling I was showing examples of not caring about what was happening and not standing up for what I believed (paraphrased).  I was surprised, as she has no idea the organizations I financially support for my causes or the emails I have sent and calls I have made to make sure my voice is heard by my representatives.  Isn’t that what moderates do? They plod along and, in time, get their work done, not typically making giant visible waves, but making a difference. It is not sign of weakness.  It is a different means to an end.  However, I am not going to defend my politics here or criticize others. That is not what this post is about.

Ultimately, both of these messages I received made me terribly sad. A certain sadness that has hung around for a while.  Regardless of their political leanings I want them both in my life.  Two people I adore who feel they are not sure they  want to be my friend any longer….one because I am left of center, and one because I am too right of left. Isn’t it ironic how it is all in one’s perspective? Perhaps they were in a bad mood that day. Perhaps they were attacked for something political recently. Perhaps they are just as damn tired of the US Government debacle as I am.  Or perhaps they just don’t like me. <insert sad emoji>

I feel like this new world order is tearing people apart. Families, friends, clients, acquaintances. I hear it over and over.  And it seems there is no end to it. This is the real carnage. No compromises, angry words, zero respect and relationships left in the dust.  Where do we go from here? Monday Musings.





How Lonely is Fame? Holiday Musings

I remember when I was younger and my mom would be saddened because a movie star died.  It is not that she ever knew them or they were friends or anything, but yet she always had a brief sadness at their passing.  “Sexy Rock Hudson died. I cannot believe he was gay.” “Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were the best dancers of my era, I cannot believe he is gone.” “Judy Garland had so much ahead of her; dying at just 47.  I cannot believe she took her own life.” She would say after each new passing was announced by the media.  In my childlike way I did not completely understand it. Everyone dies. And we go through stages of grief when our loved ones leave us.  But what about someone we did not know?

Now that I have grown beyond the age of my mother when she lamented these deaths, I understand her brief sadness each time it happened and her desire to relive those movies. It transports us back in time. 2016 seems like a long year of losing too many iconic artists…Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fischer, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and many more entertainers.

Most of these stars were pop cultural figures in my coming-of-age era and, in their way, helped form who I am today.   I loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I remember my teacher in grade school reading this story out loud to the class. I would fantasize that this chocolate factory really existed. I would have given anything to find a golden ticket in my chocolate bar.  Gene Wilder played a perfect eccentric chocolate factory owner. And who didn’t want Mrs. Brady to be their mom? She was so “groovy”!  I never missed an episode of the Brady Bunch. And any young girl who saw the original Star Wars series wanted to be Princess Leia. She was a role model as a female science fiction superhero.

However,  is was the musicians who forced me to reach into the depths of my soul to find the outrageous part of me.  When we are in our teens, coming of age, we tend to question everything about tradition and reach out to new ideas.  Trying to find who we are; experimenting. I cannot think of a better trio of gender-bending, sexually charged men than Prince, David Bowie and George Michael. We were young, the next generation, and these musicians helped create much of pop music for the next several decades.  The Fred Astaires and Glen Millers of the Depression era kids  and the hippie icons of the baby boomers had morphed into make-up wearing, costumed men who tackled all kinds of taboo subjects with their music and lifestyles…steamy sex…drugs…homosexuality…. bisexuality. All the while sending a message that is was okay for this experimentation.  Some radio stations would not play certain songs. And that simply fueled fans like me to want more.

Each time a new death of a musical icon was announced this year, I consumed their art in a VH-1 marathon music bender.   All so young. Taken from this earth long before their story was complete. Lives marred by drugs, disorders, secrets and fame.  And it got me to musing. How lonely is fame? I am not talking 15 minutes of fame from some viral video. I am not talking about a local TV anchor posing for a few pics with viewers when out to dinner. I am not even talking reality star fame.

What do you do with adoration beyond comprehension? One which imprisons you?  Lady Gaga said in a recent interview, “I don’t think I could think of a single thing that’s more isolating than being famous.”  The kind of fame that haunted(s) icons in their height like Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Shahrukh Khan (yes, it is Bollywood, but trust me he is big-time) and the list goes on. The paparazzi get bolder and the gossip magazines will pay more for photos and the fans demand more news. It is vicious cycle. One which creates so much isolation for the person living it.

Sure, everything is a trade-off.  Fame has it perks. For one, anything money can buy.  Jets, mansions, golden toilets, drugs. Whatever your heart desires. But can you imagine the pressure?  You are only as famous as your last great (fill in the blank….song, movie, photo, painting, performance, stage show, game winning goal, etc.). So once you are on the pinnacle, it takes even more creative genius to top your last fantastic piece.  Add to that the people who want to be your “friend” but are only in it to ride your coattails.  Your entourage of sorts.  Ready to take your money or expose you in some way. After a while, it may difficult to trust anyone.  And not know if any one is actually a “friend” anymore,

But wait, there is more to this fantastic ride of fame.  You can’t leave your house without a flood of flashes and cell phones in your face. Casual undisturbed dinner at your favorite restaurant down the street? Shopping for a pair of shoes? Going to a festival? No, forget it. All these normal things most people enjoy with anonymity just do not exist in a famous person’s world.  I have seen fans who are so bold, they will crush towards stars grabbing at them, even cutting pieces of clothing or hair, if their body-guard is not close by.  I can sympathize as to how frightening that must be.


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It is no wonder famous people turn to drugs (legal and illegal) and alcohol and isolationist behavior to cope. These struggles are real.  It can bring out the best of creativity, but also the worst in mental health. It makes me ponder the age-old question. Do you want to be rich and famous or have enough income to live on and be inconspicuous?

Holiday Musings. Have a fantastic future ahead, wherever your path takes you.


How Many Slaves Work for you? Monday Musings

I recently returned to my home in Costa Rica from an extended 3 month “epic” road trip.  When you live a traveling lifestyle and keep multiple homes in foreign countries, you have to be organized and detail oriented. Otherwise you might forget to shut off one SIM card while it continues to suck money from your prepaid account you’re not using. Or you might forget to remove your car out of insurance “storage” and get into a fender bender on day one of your return. Or the online electric bill from your other home was overlooked and you come back to no electricity and a freezer full of rotten, thawed food.  Yep, that one smells like a week old murder scene.   Quite unpleasant!

If this lifestyle sounds glamorous, do not let it fool you.  Homes are modest, luxury goods and services  are sacrificed. Embracing a lifestyle with less “stuff” and more experiences is the key to making it a success, not necessarily a large bank account.   However, with careful planning and investing, and a desire to change your life, just about anyone can do it. But then, a “how to live your life as an expat” is an entirely different blog post.

The evening of my return to our Costa Rican home, I was catching up on some news on CNN International.   After spending time in an angry and divided political situation in the USA it was refreshing to see news about the rest of the world. Often I find the USA to be so ego-centric and self-absorbed; one never gets to hear what is happening elsewhere. It is no wonder many people cannot find Mauritius on a map or tell you who the president is of South Africa or that a cyclone is hitting the coast of India. Unless one goes looking for other news on the internet, there is very little of it in mainstream or traditional USA media.

I was catching up on Asia news and a public service announcement ran about a non-profit organization called I recall being beyond exhausted after the stress of months of ongoing travel and work.  I didn’t catch exactly what they do, but the main gist of the message intrigued me. Something must have reached down into my psyche. I jotted down their URL and vowed I would not lose the scrap of paper in my cluttered mess of unpacked (but not yet put away) supplies.

Later that week I searched for this organization.  Before reading much regarding their goals and objectives, I took their slavery survey to see how many slaves work for me. Hmmmm, I thought to myself, I don’t have any slaves working for me. This should be easy. I filled in numbers and refined details when I had the opportunity on each particular question.  Where do I live in the world? How many rooms? Eating habits? Electronics? Cosmetics? Precious stones and metals? Leather goods? Clothes?  Sporting goods? Ever paid for sex? (NO!) After a quick calculation the magic number of 52 flashed up on my computer screen.


FIFTY-TWO SLAVES? How could that be?? I do not live an extravagant life. I do not have a lot of clothes or shoes or handbags anymore and I never buy expensive jewelry.  So how could I have so many slaves working for me?

I went to their story and learned a bit more about what they do and who is considered a slave. I had read about the sex slave trade when I spent some extended time in Thailand years ago.  And I had seen the film Blood Diamond. I have also seen young children working in India on my frequent visits there.  But to realize the magnitude of modern-day slavery happening  in every country in today’s world. Frankly it sends cold chills up my spine.

From their site: “Slavery is when someone is deceived or coerced into a situation they didn’t agree to for someone else’s profit. Victims are forced to work under the threat of violence for little or no pay. They are prevented from walking away. Today over 29 million people live under these conditions. While many are forced into the sex industry, the majority is exploited for manual economic labor in the private sector.” 55% of them are women. An astounding 26% are children.

The supply chain looks something like this:  Raw Materials -> Manufacturer -> Brand -> End User. Today’s supply chain enslaves more humans than any other in history.  Your cotton shirt raw materials picked by slaves in Uzbekistan. Your sporting goods made in a sweat shop in China by a poor woman working 21 hours per day, 7 ways a week.
The snazzy new tablet in your hands needs coltan, the tableteffective capacitor. It is mined in the Congo, by – you guessed it – slaves.  And perhaps one of the most difficult for me to consider is cosmetics.child-slave-lipstick Who knew almost all of these items have mica in them? Mica gives lipsticks, nail polish, lotions, powders (and even automotive paint) their sparkle. It is mined almost exclusively in India.  And sadly, greedy Indian mining companies embrace the amount of free labor offered from poverty-stricken families with too many mouths to feed.  Those who will sell a daughter for as little as $100.

Can you imagine being a poor adult man tricked into believing you were going to work for a fishing company and thinking you could finally support your family? It is the  story of a fisherman in Cambodia.  Instead, he was violently forced to  work 20 hours a day, living in deplorable and unsanitary conditions on a fishing boat for seven years for NO pay. Or the boy in Ghana whose mother cannot afford his school fees? So she allowed him to go with a stranger making false promises about money only; to find her little boy was sold into slavery. And she would never see him again. This happens every day. child-slave-7

The truth is, it is difficult to have a slave-free life in this world today. But there are organizations like this one who are making a difference.  Don’t be guilty. Be a game changer.  You can advocate, you can donate, you can purchase products from companies who are known not to have slavery in their supply chain.  Every human being who is enslaved deserves to live with dignity.

How many slaves work for you? Monday musings.  Have a good week. Let’s make the world a better place.

Were the Elections Rigged? Monday Musings

Several years ago I was thrilled to check off  a place on my bucket list I have always wished to see: Kenya!  On this trip I not only experienced luxury tented safaris, I was also able to spend some time in a couple of local Masai Mara villages.


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The Masai Mara National Reserve is in the southern part of Kenya bordering Tanzania. And it is quite a magical place; furnishing  you with nature up close and personal, gorgeous landscapes and stars that can be seen into eternity.  The luxury tented camps offer a throwback to the classic exquisite grandeur from movies like “Out of Africa”.  They deliver all the modern amenities like warm running water, electricity, luxurious bedding, swimming pools, and endless first class service. And as a bonus you get to hear lions roar in the night.

We had a cinematographer and professional photographer on our tour.  And it was an honor to mirror some of his wildlife photography work he was creating to ultimately publish a coffee table book from various African safaris.

The first time (or second or third time, frankly) you see an elephant or giraffe in the wild you scramble for your camera with overzealous excitement.  Then you come to realize they are all over the reserve. And by day 3 or 4 you think, oh, another elephant….Whatever. Then you hope for the cats….Cheetahs, Lions, Leopards.  Then you wish for a kill.  I was fortunate to see it all over the course of 12 perfect days. It is an incredible way to lose yourself in nature, as there is not much of a way to stay connected. And it is also a great way to learn patience. Waiting on animals for you to click the ultimate photo can take hours. My experience became even more interesting as the time passed….

Being a citizen of one single country my entire life, I have only seen the election process from my home country of the USA.  Sure, I have seen video of new democratic voting systems, such as in Iraq.  However, I never saw any actual polling place in person besides my home country.  As it turned out, my timing in Kenya was perfect.

The general elections were held on 4 March 2013. … The presidential elections were ultimately a contest between Uhuru Kenyatta of the National Alliance (TNA) and Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), with incumbent President Mwai Kibaki having served two terms and not being eligible for re-election.

On election day I asked our guide, Mithu, if he would take me to their polling station in the Masai Mara so I could see what it was like inside.  This was their first election after Kenya’s new constitution and I felt it would be fascinating to see this process of electing a president on the African continent.   Mithu laughed thinking I was kidding with him.   I loved when mithuhe laughed because he had a beautiful smile and black-as-night skin which made a stunning contrast. I tried my best to make him laugh or smile whenever possible because he lit up a room. ..or tent, in this case. But this time I was not kidding. And once we established that, he honored my request.

He drove me to the polling station that afternoon across the African plains in our safari jeep. I thought to myself, who passes elephants and giraffes and zebras on their way to vote? This was truly extaordinary. We arrived after a 20 minute bumpy, dusty journey.  Mithu exchanged a few words with the guard holding a machine gun and then they gave me the motion to enter the small bare-bones, colorless cinder block building. And just like that I was across the threshold into the secret realm of voting, reserved only for Kenyans.

I was taken aback for a moment when a man working there said “Hello Miss Evans”.  I did not recognize him and I was pretty certain no one knew me at the Masai Mara polling station. Or ANY  Kenyan polling station. Then I realized he worked at our safari camp.  I explained to him I was interested in seeing their voting process.  It was a slow time at the station, so he took his time and showed me the ballot.  I was astounded to see over 20 candidates. I had chatted with many locals (I do not know of any citizens anywhere in the world who do not like to talk about their upcoming elections) and found that the race would come down to Kenyatta or Odinga.  From the folks I visited with, Kenyatta and his family pedigree was the better choice (his father Jomo was the first Kenyan president).

So I cast my “vote” for Kenyatta.  Of course, I was told that the ballot card would not go in the giant plastic tub where the rest of the voting community had placed their cards.  But for a split second I though I saw a wink and a quick smile.  But I cannot be sure.  I was ushered to the next2013-03-04-16-14-13 table where a lady took the cap off a special indelible marker and covered my left hand pinky nail with black ink to symbolize that I had voted in the election. The team bid me a fond farewell in English and Swahili “kwaheri na asante” and sent me out past the machine gun guy.  Although I could not take a photo inside, I did get a snap of my black colored pinky nail at the exit.

Voting results in many countries can take days or weeks to be finalized. However, the announcement was finally made several days later that Uhuru Kenyatta would be the next president of Kenya.  Shortly after the announcement, Raila Odinga cried foul and announced to the media the election was rigged.  Mr. Odinga’s lawyers claimed there was a conspiracy. They had argued that because Mr. Kenyatta skirted a runoff by such a small margin,


Visiting with some of the candidates

(some 8,000 votes out of more than 12 million), the errors that had been discovered were enough to mandate a new election.  Ultimately the Kenyan Supreme Court ruled on 30 March that the election was indeed fair and they would not have a re-election.


However, it did get me musing. Especially after all the election questioning that had happened with the USA election of 2016.  Was it possible? Was my vote one of those 8,000 mystery votes that made it into a plastic tub illegally? Did I actually vote in Kenya? Is it possible there are sketchy polling places everywhere in the world? I will never know. However, I had that indelible ink on my pinky finger for months until it gew out….reminding me of a democratic system in a country far away from my homeland…and an indelible place in my heart for Kenya forever..

Monday Musings. Have a great week ahead.





About Thailand: Katsjourney Around the World: 23 April, 2003

Subject: About Thailand…
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2003 08:15:49 -0500
Greetings! Islands internet cafe

I hope everyone had a nice Easter.  And if you don’t celebrate it, I hope

you are having a nice Spring/Autumn (depending on your side of the equator).

I have been a bit out of commmunicado, but wanted to let everyone know I am

alive and well and trying to make the most of my time before immersing

myself back into the reality of the proverbial “rat race”.

Just in case you don’t know much about the Thai culture, here are a few

interesting notes…

HAPPY NEW YEAR (Sawadee phi mai)

The Thai New Year or Songkran Festival happens every year in mid-April.  I

was fortunate to find myself in the middle of Bangkok during the

festivities.  During this time the locals and the farangs (foreigners)

alike, are sprinkled with water as a blessing.  First, of course, Buddha

statues and elders are sprinkled, but then it moves into the streets.  The

“sprinkling” has turned into a dousing over the years, as folks use buckets

of water, hoses and those commando super-soaker water guns.  They also mix a

type of powder with water to make a paste that they rub on your face. At one

time I had three little boys eagerly covering my face, ears and hair with

the dreadful mixture.  It is all in good fun and a great way to cool off

during the hottest month of the year.  Did you know that Bangkok is listed

as the hottest city in the world?

Ban Songkarn Festival water

Khao San Road, a Bangkok’s backpackers enclave, transforms itself during the Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) into a massive water fights zone with thousands of Thais and foreigners armed with water guns (loaded with ice water) and cans of beer, battling both the heat and each other. Many Thais would also perform one of of the oldest Songkran traditions – applying the white powder to various parts of the face, neck and torso of the others, for protection and promises to ward off evil. Children with huge water guns roam the streets or sit in the back of their parents’ pick-up trucks, which are loaded with buckets of water that is dispensed on anyone who happens to be within reach. “Splash water! Splash happiness!” as the Thais say.

Or at least that is what the guidebooks

tell you so you don’t get too upset when you and all of your belongings

return to the hotel dripping wet!


They call Thailand “The land of smiles” because the locals are amazingly

friendly.  Those of you who have been there know what I am talking about.  I

did talk to a bartender who told me that it is not all that it appears toThai face

be.  Like in many Asian cultures, Thais have a happy “public face”, but can

be quite different in the privacy of their own home. They also expect

foreigners to put on a face.  It is a huge embarrassment for anyone to argue

in public in Thailand.


The food is Thailand is some of the best in the world.  They make great use

of their natural resources from the ocean and rice from the land and have

borrowed their version of curries from India and noodles and sauces from

China to make a unique fusion food.  Thais do not eat with chopsticks.

Instead, they use a fork in the left hand and a spoon as a shovel in the

right hand to eat. You see Thai people on the street and at work eating allstreet food

the time.  Lots of small portioned snacks out of little plastic bags from

street vendors.  I have yet to see any natives overweight.  I learned in my

cooking class in Ko Lanta that everything is very balanced in the


Meat vs. rice, sweet & sour vs. curry, chilies vs. coconut milk, and

lots of fruits instead of fattening desserts. They must be doing something

right with a nation full of healthy bodies.


(Don’t worry, this is not about MY personal habits!)

Most Thais to not have flush toilets, nor do many restaurants or public


The toilets are usually porcelain squatters with a hole in the

floor.  There is not typically toilet paper, unless you are at a place

catering to westerners.  There is usually a large container of water next to

the squatter.  With a cup floating in the barrel of water, you rinse off

your private body part/s and then pour the water down the hole to “flush”.

It can be a bit of a challenge being a girl and wearing pants (or shorts)

and holding on to a beach bag since the floor is soaking wet.  You get the

picture!  Most Thais do not have hot water either.  Of course, the weather

is so hot that it is not completely necessary.  Many people still bathe in

rivers and canals.Bathing in canal


No, I a not considering a new career.  But I am currently reading a book

titled “Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia”.  So much for looking

for a little “light” reading on the trip.  Prostitution and sex

entertainment is BIG business in Thailand.  You often hear of western men

coming to Bangkok or Phuket to buy “escorts”.  These types of Go-Go Clubs

are very obvious and out in the open.

Interestingly, there are also very private or secret clubs that cater to

Asian men, particularly Japanese.  The Asian sector has the most demand for

prostitution.  In many Asian cultures, the girls are expected to be virgins

when they marry or not only do they shame the family they may never be able

to marry as they are labeled as “damaged goods”.  With the lack of free sex

partners for Asian men, many turn to prostitutes for sex.  It is quite

acceptable for married men as well.  As you might expect, some of the true

life accounts in the book I am reading are pretty horrifying.  Many young

girls are sold into brothels by their own families.


It is customary to remove your shoes before entering any palace, temple,

home, or even business.  Most Thai people eat sitting on the floor.

Therefore, they find it disgusting when foreigners wear shoes through the

threshold. islands shoes at door

I have been respecting the culture, but have found the practice

rather time consuming since I have been wearing Tevas(a sports sandal with

velcro straps).  I finally broke down and bought some flip-flops!

I could go on and on about this wonderful and strange new world, but I

imagine this is a long enough newsletter!  It is an amazing country and a

place I would suggest as an exotic and VERY affordable holiday destination.

Take care of yourselves.



One Night in Bangkok, Katsjourney Around the World: 24 March, 2003

Subject: One Night in Bangkok
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 17:37:27 -0600
There was a song that came out in the late 1970’s that some of you may

remember.  It was a one hit wonder and the chorus went something like this:

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble…”  Well, I am here to tell

you it’s true.  My girlfriend Kathie, in Austin, told me that the city is a

real ball buster, whether your balls are real or imaginary.  That’s true


I am staying at a hotel on probably the most hectic street in the city.  I

heard from a friend in Cape Town that it is owned by a group of Nigerian

drug lords.  AND they used to have two floors booked out for “Mr Smith”.

That would be the western gentleman sponsoring a lovely Thai girl for an

evening of entertainment.  The place is tattered, but clean and only costs

1200 Baht, about US$ 29 per night.

A Thai gentleman that I met in Cape Town collected me at the airport.  He

was a dignitary professor at a conference that I worked with my friend Ilse,

back in December.  Not 1 kilometer out of the airport and his very nice

Holden car (looks like a VW Jetta) was rear ended by a delivery truck. Ban hit car It

was a bit of a jolt and now I have a mild case of whiplash.  Funny, we had

just been talking about the insane traffic in Bangkok.  We managed to pry

the boot open and get out my luggage so I could jump in a taxi whilst he

messed with the police and insurance people.  Welcome to Bangkok!

After a short arrival nap I set out with my Bangkok city map to explore the

city.  The humid heat is overwhelming.  With the humidity index it is about

42 degrees (107 F).  The pollution is choking.  I was completely jostled

around in the small streets of the markets with food vendors and cars trying

to make their way through the narrow lanes.  And talk about noise.  Noise,

Noise, noise everywhere.  Hawkers, horns, cell phones, music blaring, loud

tuk tuk engines.  You could lose 30 years of your life living in this

sprawling city of 10 million.

But there is also a certain beauty here. The people are warm and polite.  If

you show just a bit of respect, they will bend over backwards to accommodate

you.  The food is some of the best in the world.  And the lush Royal gardens

and palaces are like no place else I have ever seen.  I have never seen such

pure gold as in the temples and Buddha images.  Every place I wander I

mutter under my breath, “Oh my God”.  It is amazing.

I am leaving tomorrow for a remote island called Ko Lanta.  It is an hour

flight south of Bangkok and then a two hour boat ride south east of Krabi.

I heard that they just got phone service to the island in 2001.  Amazing.

It will be a real contrast to Bangkok.  It is there that I plan on studying

the teachings of Buddha, learning to meditate and do a bit of writing.  If

there is an internet place, I will send an update.

The war rages on and I am able to keep up with it through CNN and the

English Bangkok newspaper. I pray for the safety of the world and our allied

troops.  There is a large Muslim population in the south near the Malaysian

border.  I am officially Canadian whilst I am here, just for safety. candian flag

Love to all,