Sunday, February 27, 2011

Living with the Tiger

Baan Gerda Orphans

Can you imagine the trauma a young child goes through seeing their father or mother slowly waste away and die of AIDS. Quite often a child loses both parents and has to be cared for by relatives, the mental trauma and pain they suffer is unimaginable to most of us.
Many of these children are born with HIV and when their own symptoms develop they are cast aside by their relatives and abandoned by their own communities. A traumatized child alone in the world. Maybe traumatized isn’t a big enough word. But this is happening all over the world today, tomorrow and thereafter. There is however a glint of hope for some.
A small rural village in Thailand and a full length feature film documentary are highlighting a simple fact about HIV and AIDS. Those infected with the disease can lead a good life and one which is fully integrated into society.

Baan Gerda is that village and Living with the Tiger the film which documents the renewed hope and optimism being given to HIV infected orphans at Baan Gerda.
The orphans live in Baan Gerda, a hospice in Lopburi Province originally set up to care for AIDS victims during their last days. Nowadays Baan Gerda is full of energetic kids who hop, skip and jump like any other children. Many of them arrived at the hospice having been abandoned by their extended families and in poor health.

The small village is home for around 80 children who are cared for by foster parents, but the ultimate aim at Baan Gerda is to re-integrate their children back into the communities which rejected them and re-unite them with their relatives once again.

Living with a Tiger is playing a big role in helping make that happen and also in educating people about the mental burden these orphans carry around with them. It also is hoping to once and for all bury the myths and stigma wrongfully attached to HIV and AIDS.

Bruce Gaston, Mike Thomas and around 80 kids with a zest for life have set about changing Thailand’s, and hopefully the world’s, misconceptions about these two diseases.

Bruce Gaston is a composer, performer and music teacher. He first started teaching music to the children of Baan Gerda in early 2007, and then began to develop an idea for the children to perform in an opera. It has been inspired by the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, LIFE OF PI.

Mike Thomas worked as a volunteer after an opportunistic visit to Baan Gerda in 2006. He began to film the music lessons that Gaston had started, long before the idea of an opera or a documentary film had been discussed. Despite no formal training or experience, he went on to record the unfolding events and capture the stories of the children over the next 3 years.

Living with the Tiger is a feature-length film viewed through the eyes of two boys, Oy and Bla who both lost their AIDS infected parents. Bruce Gaston starts giving the orphans at Baan Gerda music lessons and their enthusiasm and passion gives him the idea of writing an opera for the kids to perform.

As the opera progresses, kids from public Thai schools are invited to take part and the orphans re-integration back into local community life begins. The stigmas and myths start to get buried too. The opera and the orphans gel together so well it all eventually leads to a performance of their concert in Khon Kaen.

The film documents the highs and lows of Oy, Bla and their friends over a period of three years, and Living with the Tiger has a special free preview screening at Patravadi Theatre Bangkok on March 17th 2011. Click on the link for ticket details.

If you wish to visit Living with the Tiger’s website follow the link where you’ll find lots of background information about the film and the orphans of Baan Gerda. You can also buy a full length festival edition of the film via the website by making a donation of $28 (21 Euros / 500 Baht).

“Every dime helps make another million dollar smile at Baan Gerda.”
Talen, author of popular Thai blog Thailand Land of Smiles highlighted the story of Baan Gerda’s orphans and Living with the Tiger via his latest blog post. Talen is giving away three copies of the full length festival edition of the film and you can win one by visiting his site. He also challenged his fellow Thai bloggers to publicize and help to get the word out about Living with the Tiger and Baan Gerda.Retired in Thailand and Loving It is very happy to do just that.

These final paragraphs and thoughts from Martyn over at Beyond the Mango Juice Thanks Martyn

Finally I’d like to leave you with an extract from Living with the Tiger’s website which describes a bit about the film’s two main characters, Oy and Bla.

It was only after a year of filming that the idea of making a feature length documentarybegan to take shape. Although the crew had been capturing the developments in themusic lessons, it became clear that it was the lives of the children that was of mostinterest. The decision was made to focus on Bla and Oy as they had prominent roles inthe opera.

After details of Oy’s troubled past emerged, the team managed to secure an interview with the uncle and aunt that had abandoned him at an AIDS hospice. They also asked if Oy would like to make the journey back to visit his relatives. It was several years since he was last in his hometown and the emotional reunion prompted the uncle and aunt to ask Oy if he would come back to live with them again. It was a difficult decision for him to make after what had happened to him before.

Bla had much clearer memories of his experiences when he was living at home. He knew that he had been rejected by his family yet he had this growing desire to return home, even if it was just to bring about some kind of closure on this period of his life. When he mentioned that he wanted to take a trip back to see his land and visit his family he was happy for the film team to accompany him

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Joy of Gardening in Thailand and growing flowers

I think I have always had a green thumb when it comes to plants and flowers and I always had a great garden when I lived in America and had a small plot to grow a garden of veggies .
One of the things that makes living here in Thailand such a great joy , is that you don't even have to have a green thumb to be a great gardener, they have a saying here in Thailand " put it in the ground and water it and IT WILL GROW ", and this I have found out is so true and with hardly no effort on my part.
Ciejay and me have a great herb garden and a few more plants for fresh veggies, and lots of fruit trees that provide us with more than enough fruit and herbs , and I have planted a few Tomato plants and now they all have small tomato all over them , and we planted a few eggplants and they are doing well , Veggies that like to spead out and take up a lot of ground space (something I can't spare ) we find it still cheaper and a lot less work just to buy them at the fresh food market Tuesdays and Thursdays. All in all gardening is a lot of fun and a small source of much needed exercise. (alto I have started walking a bit every morning with Ciejay and the dogs).We have a large variety of flowers and plants , that bring a never ending source of smells and and smiles.
One plant I had tried to grow while I was in America was orchids and no matter how green I painted my fingers I could never get them to bloom for me , while my Bro Jim had such great success in growing and having them bloom for him when he lived in Florida , but now that he has moved to Tenn. he can not get them to bloom , much to his disappointment, and now envy that I can grow a orchid and with only a little help from me get them them to bloom also , and to my surprise some will bloom several times a year.
Do you live in a climate where you can grow orchids and do you ?? If not I would encourage you to give it a try , most of the common one are not to expensive , while more exotic ones can cost big bucks. Growing a orchid and having it bloom is the "Gold Thumb"for a gardener. If you do grow them and want to brag a little you can always e-mail me a picture of yours I would love to see them. Take care and remember don't lick your fingers after playing around in the organic fertilizer. ha ha ha.
Again as I have said many times before and never tire of repeating myself , this is just one more of the reasons I am Retired in Thailand and Loving It.

Orchids (info from www. )
Orchids, one of the most fascinating, beautiful and peculiar variety among the flowering plants, have always been considered difficult to grow. But given the right climatic and cultural conditions, they can thrive anywhere and will flower regularly.
These plants belongs to the Orchidacae family, with all the difference in size, shape, colour, scent or lack of it. They are the most rapidly changing group of plants on earth with over 880 genera and 28,000 species.
Once the cultural needs of these fascinating plants are understood, growing orchids is relatively simple. It becomes a deeply satisfying and therapeutic activity. If given the right climatic and cultural conditions, they can thrive anywhere and will flower regularly. Some species of orchids may flower two or three times a year and some flower annually.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Khanom Khao Lam ( sticky rice in bamboo)

The other day Ciejay and me took a ride out in the country , to a local Thai Temple that holds a flea market every Sunday early in the morning , all the things are sold as is and there is lots of treasures and collectibles to be had as well as a lot of stuff for the handy man around the house.All proceeds from the sale of items donated go to the up-keep of the Temple and they also hire local men to work in the flea market thus providing a little income where there would be none . More on this story next week as I forgot to take any pictures as I was sooo busy bargain hunting , I promise a good story and lots of pictures .
But, back to this story of the sticky rice cooked in Bamboo .
I had eaten a Khao Lam a time or two and loved it , but I could never find them for sale around our village , well today as we were driving I saw a table covered with them and a lady who made them told Ciejay that she makes about a hundred of them every morning and folks come from all over the area to buy them and she said that every once in a while she will get a order for a lot of them as some folks will buy them wholesale from her and take them to their villages and sell them retail, she also told Ciejay that there is a lady from our village that buys from her a couple times a week and sells them in Wang Pho , But, you have to get there early because she sells out fast , I guess that's the reason I have never seen them for sell , as I am not to much at being a early riser.

The lady's husband cuts the bamboo from the mountain behind their house and then cuts them into about a foot long piece and cleans them for her to fill with sticky rice ( white and black ) and black bean and coconut milk and then she puts a plug of banana leaf in the top to keep all the rice inside during the cooking stage . After the are done cooking she puts them in bundles of three and sells them for 100 baht for three. You can buy for a little less if you take a few bundles and she sometimes throws in a few one or two sticks for good will. After you buy them she will take a small hatchet and cut the tops for you so you can pull the bamboo away to get at the treat inside and I must say it is a real treat and a extra treat if you get there early and they are still warm Yum Yum..

Have you ever had them and if so what did you think . I now know where to get them and for sure when I am on the way to the flea market early Sunday mornings I will be stopping to pick some up for my lunch snack and I'll get a few extra for the neighbors ( they love them too ) .
I didn't get there early enough to get pictures of her making and stuffing them , but I got a few pictures of her operation and assembly area , Hopefully I can get more photos on my next trip , I gleamed a couple photos from the www. to show you also .

All this great and New food that I am still discovering , after 7 years living here , make everyday life here in the LOS exciting (to say the least) and Khao Lam is just one more reason why I'm Retired in Thailand and Loving It. Malcolm

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I thought I had seen every kind of bug and insect there is in Thailand , BUTTTT !!!!! Ciejay opened the back door and let out a blood curdling scream and I thought we had ourselves another Cobra trying to get into our house this time , I ran an at first look i thought the dogs had bitten a snake in half and left the front half for us to see , I could see eyes and ears and what looked like a mouth, upon closer ---buttt careful examination I saw that it was some kind of caterpillar or something , to me it looked like a Tiger worm , It was something out of the twilight zone as far as I was concerned for a moment. I touched it with the broom and it straightened out like it wanted to crawl away, but when it never did I so carefully got it on the broom and took it out in the field behind the house to let it go , could not bring myself to kill it , it looked like a little animal instead of a worm.
Have you ever seen something like this? I tried to look it up on the net and could not find it. If you have a name for it and what it looks like when it becomes.
I found this on the net with John'a help thanks again John Malcolm
Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar
The species is found throughout Britain and Ireland except for the north and east of Scotland, and its range extends across Europe, Russia, and into China, northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, Japan and Korea (though not Taiwan). Introduced specimens have been found in British Columbia. In most of their range, the adults are seen from May to July and the caterpillars from July to September, when they pupate. However in some parts of the Mediterranean and China the adults may be seen from April on, sometimes having two broods in a year.
Caterpillar in "elephant" pose
Caterpillar in "snake" pose
The larva is about 75mm long, green and brown in colour. Like most hawk moth caterpillars, they have a backward curving spine or "horn" on the final abdominal segment. The anterior of the caterpillar appears to have the shape of a trunk-like snout. It is this elephant look, rather than its large size, that gives the moth its name. When startled, the caterpillar draws its trunk into its foremost body segment. This posture resembles a snake with a large head and four large eye-like patches. Caterpillars are preyed upon by birds, but these shy away (at least for some time) from caterpillars in "snake" pose. It is not known whether the birds take the caterpillar to actually resemble a snake, or are frightened by the sudden change of a familiar prey item into an unusual and boldly-patterned shape (Stevens 2005).

The preferred food plants of the caterpillar are willowherb and bedstraw, though it will also take fuchsias.
The imago (adult) tends to feed in the evening, and often takes nectar from garden plants like honeysuckles and petunias, so it is quite often seen in urban settings. The moth has a wing span typically between 50 and 70 mm. It is spectacularly coloured, seeming to shimmer with green and red when in motion. The adult moths are eaten by some species of bats.
Two subspecies, Deilephila elpenor elpenor and Deilephila elpenor lewisii, were recognised in the past, but they are no longer regarded as well distinguished. Similarly the subspecies Deilephila elpenor szechuana is now thought to be a synonym for Deilephila elpenor elpenor. The subspecies Deilephila elpenor macromera, found in southern China, northern India, Bhutan and Myanmar, is still regarded as distinct.
The related species, the Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus) and Chitral Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila rivularis) are similar but smaller and less colourful.(Wikipedia)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snake in the neighbor's bathroom

This is what he looked like (picture from www.
This was what he looked like when I saw him , he was 5 1/2 foot long

Ciejay was watering the plants yesterday ,when she heard someone screaming Help!!! , Help!!!!, someone Help me please , she recognized the voice right away and her and a couple of neighbors who heard the cry too , ran ,as fast as they could run, to Nam Lum's house, thinking she had taken a bad fall and broke something , when they got there they saw Nam sitting on the toilet pointing up( Ciejay said" she was white as a sheet" ) and there in a basket of towels was a Cobra snake all raised up with his hood expanded and was weaving back and forth and hissing and (they said ) growling at her , she was scared to death , (I would have probably passed out , as the two things in Thailand that scare me the most are spiders and of course SNAKES of any kind). they were scared too and didn't know what to do , because they were afraid if they move to get Nam out of the toilet the Cobra would strike and bite her. They man who had ran in with the ladies decided to try to hit it with a stick and when he came in with the stick the cobra fell to the floor and again raised up with it's hood expanded and begin hissing again, the ladies ran and the man hit the snake in the head with the stick and then hit it a few more times just to make sure it was dead,( then and only then could they get Nam off the toliet). They carried it out and when I came back from the market Ciejay told me I had missed all the excitement( I'm really glad I wasn't there it may have been me that would have had to kill the cobra ). and that kind of excitement I was glad to miss. I got my camera and got a shot of the snake before the folks down the road came and got him and had a big bar-b-que 0f snake . (they said it taste just like chicken) They ask me if I wanted a bite , but I kindly and with great respect for the cook said" NOOOO!!!!!, I think I'll pass. "
I think this is the same snake(they all look the same to me when I'm running the other way and looking over my shoulder --ha ha ha ha ) that I saw last week in the back yard that Sabu and Nosey were barking at , he headed (the snake ) for the bushes out in the Mango field. I sure hope this was the one , I have been very careful when watering the plants at night to have lots of outside lights on so I could see all around me , and as far as I am concerned my motto when it comes to snakes is this "THE ONLY GOOD SNAKE IS A DEAD SNAKE". Sorry to all the snake lovers that's just the way I feel about snakes, and I think Nam is glad the neighbor man felt the same too.
Now I'm just glad(especially after yesterday) that we have screens and screen doors in our house , to keep the unwanted critters out.And I still look under the bed and behind the doors all the time JUST IN CASE.