Digitalized yet Feel

Christmas came and vanished in a blink of an eye.  In a couple of days it will no longer be 2011 and I am going to have to rewire my brain to write my dates with 2012 (or in the Buddhist calendar 2555).  So much has happened yet there are still so many things waiting to happen.  Who knows what the future holds? Will the year 2012 be the end of the world or will it bring with it renewed hope? I suppose we will just have to live through it to find out.   I pray though that whatever happens, it brings happiness and that at the end of it all, we can look back and appreciate the year we had.

The last few days I have finally gotten into the digital book age with the initiation of my first reading of a novel on tablet.  I never thought I would. (Thank you Alex for downloading roughly 10GB worth of novels onto my tablet!)  I had always been somewhat old fashioned in my preference for paper and having documents printed out.  I like the smell and feel of paper. I love feeling the texture of paper and ink between my fingers.   I spend hours on end lost between stacks of books in the library or at the bookstore.  I derive pleasure from observing the beauty of book covers or looking at the printed typeface on paper.  There’s something about the ink and the smell of printed books that is somewhat mesmerizing.

I grew up in an age where we wrote essays and papers by hand. First draft, second draft and final drafts were all done with ink and paper. Computers came later.  Now those days are gone and we are gradually moving into an age where printed books will be less in demand.  I am finally starting to understand why.

I wanted to buy Murakami’s newest novel, IQ84, but seeing it’s sheer size and thoughts about the lack of shelf space and the other large books I have in line waiting to be read pushed that thought aside.  Undeterred, Alex got me a digital version and I am finding opportunities to read like never before.  Waiting to see a doctor, waiting to get medicine for my sniffling cold, lazing in bed and whatever free time I have, I can now read books rather than just play around on Facebook.

All this techonology is fun. It is good, but let it not consume us.  Technology lets us enjoy and use our spare time.  However, we must also remember to raise our heads up from the iPhones, iPads, tablets, kindles and all these gadgets every now and then and smell the sweet scent of the flowers in bloom, feel the breeze in the air and listen to the person besides us.  Enjoy the cool air that is breezing through Bangkok 🙂 or if you are somewhere with snow, make a Snow Angel.  🙂

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To Stop the Floods, First Save the Trees

It’s raining cats and dogs again tonight.  The street in front of my house is flooded. It’s nothing compared to elsewhere in the country where houses are flooded up to the second story.  Residents have no where left to sleep but on the roof.   Workers were stranded in a factory after flash floods closed their exit.  Villagers trying to help others themselves drown.  Dogs and cats are eaten by crocodiles.  With no bathrooms, the waters are starting to stink and rot. Those were the headline news this morning.  It is depressing to wake up to such news.

237 people are now dead. 3 are missing. 28 provinces hit by floods.

Somehow the thought of deforestation jumps to mind.  Environmental factors have never been much of an issue in Thailand.  It has always been an issue to a few group of select people.  Others looked on and went on with their life. The environmentalists protested on. In a developing country like Thailand, making money seems to be the predominant thought in mind.

Business cut costs where possible.  It is understandable, a business has to make money, but then rules and regulations should be put in place so as to incentivize companies and others alike to prevent deforestation.  Regulations must be implemented. Corruption banished.

Everytime I go to the mountainous area of Khao Yai, I cannot help but feel a little sad.  I like the cool weather there, the trees, yet then thoughts of what my mother tells me comes to mind.  She tells me that thirty years ago, the trees were much taller in the national reserve.  It was a real forest.

Now even in the national reserve trees are really not that tall.  There are buildings way inside the reserve.  It does not feel much like a forest. Not like the ones I’ve been to in Europe anyways.  In other national reserves, I hear others use techniques to kill trees they are not permitted to cut.  Acidic dung from cattle. Villagers in search of money, inhabit the land, get rights to the land, and then through some kind of magic they sell the land to unknowing city dwellers in search of a weekend home.    Sometimes it’s sold to businesses in search of land to build resorts.

To meet demand, trees are cut. Deforestation continues. Trees illegally logged in Thailand are floated downstream and reimported into Thailand as if they were from elsewhere. There are ways to get around regulations.  Money can do anything.

The sad part of all this though, is that human greed will ruin what was once beautiful.  Because we want to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains, we cut trees to build houses and resorts.  We do all this because nothing is ever enough.  We want to make more and more money.  As a result we have even more deforestation.

Without forests, without trees, floods come easier and faster.  There are no longer any forests to help absorb the water before releasing it slowly into the rivers.   Instead, rain comes and water flows quickly into rivers, thus increasing the chances of flash floods.   Filled too quickly, the rivers break their banks.  Water now flows out everywhere forming new paths.

As a result, the top soil is eroded away as rivers wash down vast areas.  They call this “soil erosion.”  Once eroded,  this decreases the chances of the area to regenerate and for trees to grow again.  The land becomes infertile and cannot be used.

Such are the effects of deforestation.  Such are the effects of cutting down trees.

If Thais were to get-to-gether, learn the effects of deforestation and children taught to love nature perhaps we can avert future incidences of floods.  With trees and forests, we would have fresh air to breathe, rivers to enjoy, wild animals to go see.  Life would be more enjoyable, and yes, we would not have to wake up to such sad news of flash floods, deaths, and crocodiles eating dogs.

Save the Forests my dear readers! Love our Planet Earth. We have only one place to live.

A Daydream

Yesterday I woke up extremely early and it proved to be a wonderful start to the weekend.  I woke up at 5am and was out of the house by around 6am.  My mission was to go horseriding once again up in the mountains not far from Bangkok.  The air was fresh, the grass was clean and the atmosphere just wonderful… Life is lovely and slow here.  Life is healthy.

My friends and I all got on our horses and each rode away to one’s content.  I got to ride “Teacup” this time who was only 4 years old and a beautiful brown colour just like his mother who is sadly now in heaven.  It was good to be surrounded by nature once again far away from the hoards of people in Bangkok.  It’s amazing how life can be so different just a little over an hour’s drive away from Bangkok.

The young girl who owns the stables is only 23 years ago yet she knows what it is she wants and what makes her happy which is wonderful.  Not a lot of people I know really know what is that makes them “happy.”  Oftentimes we strive for things we don’t really want.  When we get it, we aren’t “happy.”

I remember when I first met her earlier this year.  She told me how she had to choose between continuing her competitive horse racing career and her education.  It’s not an easy choice many of us have to decide upon, but she chose her education as she realized that it would enable her to do what she loved.    Having lived in Bangkok before, her parents retired to the moutains of Khao Yai and there she grew in love living with nature.

No longer did she want the busy, hectic and stressful city life that comes with living in Bangkok.  At this age, most people would be enjoying the lights and sounds of city life.  I look around her and realize that she is truly in her own heaven.  Every morning she wakes up to her stable full of horses, surrounded by the green green grass, with a wonderful view of the mountains.  It is truly wonderful.  Happiness can be had from the simplest things.

I daydream and wonder what it would be like to have a little house in the mountains.  What would it be like to live in the midst of nature?  It might sound ideal and pleasant, but in reality would it be as good as it sounds?  Would I miss the sound of the skytrain rumbling pass my window?  To get something, we must give and take… What are you willing to give up for a little more happiness?

The Vegetarian Festival (Tesagan Kin Je)

Over the weekend, I went out with my dear friends for a birthday celebration (Happy Birthday again!)  and since it’s now the “Vegetarian” Festival in Thailand, we discussed and wondered about its origins and what is this festival really for?  All we know is that for a period of 9 days, people of Chinese descent in Thailand go “vegetarian” or “vegan.”  During this period, those participating in the festival abstain from eating meat, anything made from meat (including oil or fat), eggs, and vegetables that have strong flavours.  Garlic, onions, and chives are all off limits.  Even fish sauce that is used in most Thai dishes are substituted.

I wonder what is this festival for?  Do people in other countries celebrate this festival as much as we do here in Thailand?  Everywhere I go during the 9 days of the festival, I find shops and restaurants all raising the signature yellow flag to tell me that they serve “Je” or Vegetarian food.  Almost everything is made of soy. There are fake ducks, fake pork and anything you could think of.  All the “meats” look real, but they aren’t. 

I had to find out. (And yes, my friends have also given me the responsibility of finding out since I am the “blogger.” Something I happily do :))

So here goes:  From my web research, I discovered that this “Vegetarian” festival takes places predominantly in Southeast Asia and is also known by this very exotic name of “Nine Emperor Gods Festival.”   (Did you know that?? Cool isn’t it? )

This festival is actually of Taoist origins and therefore supposedly goes back to ancient religious beliefs about celestial movements.  It is celebrated on the eve of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar (October 11-19th).  Now since the three jewels of Taoism are compassion, moderation, and humility, I think this “Vegetarian” festival in someway is reflective of those beliefs.

It reminds me of the Muslim fast and the Christian lent, though at a lesser degree.  This period of abstention from “meat” and vegetables with flavours I believe is meant to be a period of self-reflection.  During this time, since our taste buds are not stimulated by “worldly” meats and flavours, we are reminded of how fortunate we are to have “meat” and flavour in our lives. We are to eat as those without eat.  We are to go back to our roots, mother nature and remind ourselves of what it is to have and not have.

I think the “fake” meats and all came a long time after the origins of this festival had long been forgotten.

At the start of the festival, the Nine Emperor Gods which are all celestial stars high above us are welcomed in the Chinese temples.  Devotees dress in white and processions are held.  in Bangkok’s Chinatown where this is widely celebrated, all the food stalls and restaurants celebrate this event with lots of food.  Hungry people roam the shops looking for delicious vegetarian food.  

In Phuket, where this festival was supposedly first brought to Thailand, it is also held with much ado with processions and magical performances.  The “magical” performances are supposed to show us how those guarded by the “Gods” can do unhumanly feats and still come out unscathed. 

It’s amazing how such celebrations evolve and change over time.  As more and more people try it each year, in hopes of a healthier and happier life, this “Vegetarian” festival will continue to prosper.  At least in Thailand anyways.  It’s a whole big affair here.   To good health! 🙂