The fruit season has peaked here in southern Thailand with high quantities and low prices for all of the seasonal favorites like durian, chempedak, mangosteen, and rambutan. There’s so much fruit it’s falling from the trees faster than it can be harvested. Although such tree ripened fruit is optimal for immediate consumption it can’t be shipped off to far away markets where it could fetch a higher price so locally the price for such premium tree ripened fruit has dropped quite a bit with a kg of ripe mangosteens going for only 10 baht or $0.32USD. Regular durian as opposed to named durian from grafted trees aka village durian or durian baan is going for only 20 baht or $0.64USD a kg. I remember when I could get such durian for half that but nowadays 20 baht a kg is a steal especially if it’s from a good tree with a high flesh to seed/shell ratio. Yesterday morning after feasting on rambutan in a rambutan tree, fortunately one without any red ants, I collected a bag of durians. I took a boat back from Malaysia last week where there was also a lot of fruit, just a lot more expensive, and it’s been a feast ever since.
I caught a big Tokay gecko yesterday. Unlike smaller house geckos which leave little droppings in exchange for the service of clearing any insects that make it into the house the much larger Tokay gecko takes big shits all over everything. Moreover at night they often make loud calls which can be very annoying if you’re nearby. Most people around here just kill them since it’s easier to kill than capture but I wouldn’t kill such a beautiful creature so I caught him without harming him and released him on the other side of a nearby river where there aren’t any houses for him to get into trouble at. I later celebrated the successful catch and release with some durian.
Last week a monocled cobra slithered into the boy’s bathroom here at the children’s shelter. Luckily some boys saw it slither in and didn’t accidentally get too close because monocled cobras have one of the fastest acting venoms of all venomous snakes and if bitten and envenomated you could die within an hour. I might stick around here until this 90 visa stamp runs out on May 1st and in the meantime I hope I don’t have any more close cobra encounters.
As I was searching for some fruit at the market I passed by these poor chickens. So sad. I took a photo because I thought I should document their suffering since such abuse is so common and supported by so many people who prefer to turn a blind eye to this suffering rather than go without meat, milk, or eggs. I hope photos like these will make people think twice before eating animals and if they do to at least make sure the animals they eat were treated properly before their meat, milk, or eggs were taken.
After many years of not bowling I started bowling once in a while with the kids however last time I went alone in the afternoon while they were at school so I could focus. I arrived at the bowling alley with the goal of bowling a 180 or above which is something I’ve only done two or three times in my life and not for the last two decades or so. After a few games I was able to throw a 183 with my right hand and a 150 with my left. Note: I used a 12 pound house ball and only threw straight balls, no hooks. I was so happy with those two last games that I didn’t want to start a new one even though I still had around 10 minutes on my one hour lane rental so instead of starting a new game I decided to try some experimental throws.
I was the only person bowling in the entire place and just as I was about to leave a group of people arrived and were gathering near my lane so for my final shot I positioned myself in front of the lane but I was facing towards the people and away from the pins. I then did a normal pendulum throw but instead of releasing the ball in the front of the swing I held on to it and released it in the back. After releasing the ball I struck a pose that might have been seen in some late 70’s disco and I held it legs split, one arm up, and bent over looking behind me with everything upside down until BOOM, strike! I then stood up and looked up at the group of people who were watching and they all immediately broke into a round of applause. It was hilarious.
P.S. I’ve always wanted to break 200 and 12 days after this post I finally I did!
I spent most of last month in Thailand and as usual it was lovely and delicious as seen in the photos below. On the way here from Malaysia I took a little cargo boat which was funny because I was the only passenger, there were no seats, and when the guy dropped me off in Thailand I was left to walk to immigration myself. When I got to the window I was the only person there and the immigration officer was like “How did you get here?”. I told him I took a little boat from Malaysia and he said I couldn’t do that because those boats weren’t permitted to carry passengers and they had none of the necessary documents for bringing people in and out of the country. I said Ok I’ll make sure I get the proper documents before boarding such a vessel in the future and after talking with one of his colleagues he stamped me in.
Now it’s November 1st and I’m in a minibus on my way back to Malaysia because I told the kids I’d be back for Diwali aka “Hindu festival of lights” which according to Wikipedia “symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. They’re going to have a party to celebrate and are preparing a dance for tomorrow. Then a few weeks after the Diwali holiday is their longest school holiday of the year which lasts from late November to January. I promised them I’d stick around until the end of December and take them out for some activities but after that I plan on returning to Thailand and I might head to China in the spring so it looks like any volunteering in 2019 will have to be done via the occasional video call which is what I’ve been doing the past few weeks.
August arrived so fast I almost forgot to post something. I volunteered full-time at a children’s shelter all throughout July with the exception of 5 days I spent in Thailand. I went back to get my skateboard, slackline, and some other things I wanted for my summer stay here in Penang. After looking at these photos I took while I was in Thailand you’ll see why I really don’t like leaving there to come here. The plan of coming back and only going in to volunteer for a couple hours a day completely failed however I feel that all the time spent volunteering last month was time well spent because the directors and I have been making a lot of improvements in the way the home is run and the way the kids are fed and raised. Moreover these improvements will go on to not only benefit these 30 or so kids but also any new ones that end up living and being cared for here.
For the last two weeks I’ve been volunteering at a children’s shelter full-time and between that and some unexpected but welcomed work I haven’t had much if any time to think about what to post so pardon me as I try to put something together at the last minute. A couple months back I promised some kids that I’d come back to visit them during their school holiday in June. I told them I would only be staying here in Malaysia for one week however when I tried to leave last week I was unable to deny the earnest pleas of a few little girls who really wanted me to stay. Some of them even went as far as vowing to eat only vegetables and to never eat candy if I stayed, haha. I told them such vows were unnecessary and that regardless of whether or not I stayed they should try their best to eat more vegetables and less candy.
There was a tokay gecko at the restaurant near my home and the owners wanted it gone because it was defecating all over their kitchen. A couple of weeks ago I saw it on the wall so I grabbed a kitchen towel to protect myself from it’s blood-drawing bite and captured it. I then proudly showed the owners the big gecko and one of them asked if he could kill it which is what they probably do to any tokay geckos that try taking up residence at their restaurant.
I was like why would you want to kill such a beautiful specimen when you could just walk across the street, a little ways into the forest, and release it into the wild. I told them that’s where I was headed and that I first just wanted to show them the fellow that’s been shitting all over their kitchen. The point of this introduction is to tell you that I had no reason to venture out onto the road and into the forest that night and only did so so I could release this tokay gecko.
A man that lived down the street from me died a few days ago. He was conversing with a neighbor near a coconut tree and…, no a coconut didn’t fall on is head, it was even worse, a coconut fell from the tree, bounced off of a rock, and then hit him in the head. He was taken to the hospital where he spent 3 nights before being discharged and returning home for a family wedding being held at his house and right after the wedding he died. There was a gathering all week at that house, first for the wedding and then for the funeral. I thought I’d share this sad story with you and remind you to be grateful you haven’t died in any freak accidents because any of us could at any time. Hopefully we won’t but the low probability of such an event shouldn’t leave you thinking you’ll always have another day to get something done or to mend a relationship with someone.
Enjoy the full moon tonight and this frog photo I took last month.
Today as I was cleaning around my porch I lifted up a plastic crate and gently tossed it over to the side. Unfortunately there was a gecko stuck to the bottom of it which was nearly decapitated when the crate landed. No surgery I could’ve performed could’ve repaired the severed spinal cord of this poor house gecko. I’ve seen paralyzed dogs using dog wheelchairs however for a gecko that makes a living running up walls this was not an option. So I did the humane thing and smashed its head in with one swift swing of a wooden juggling club. I then grabbed it by its still twitching tail and tossed it into the creek next to my house because I knew it would be immediately eaten by one of the snakeheads that live under the rocks and wait for lizards, frogs, and any other edible items to fall into the water.
I’ve performed a couple other mercy killings over the years but the one that came to mind today was one that took place a couple of months ago at a children’s shelter. There was a sick and/or injured pigeon flopping around in front of the building and although I didn’t know what was wrong with it I could tell by its limp neck and the way it was moving that it was going to die within a day or maybe within hour. I already knew my answer but I asked the kids that were with me at the time if we should let it lay in the sun and let the ants go to work on it until it eventually dies or should we put it out of its misery. We went inside to get out of the sun to discuss the matter. At first a couple of the kids were shocked that I, the person that doesn’t even eat animals, would propose killing one however as we laid out the bird’s only options they started agreeing with me.
As we discussed the matter I saw another kid though the window, a 5 year old boy who was about half the age of the kids I was discussing the matter with, approaching the sick and/or injured bird with a badminton racket and before I could say anything to him he smashed it over the head. We all ran outside to find a dead bird and a little kid still holding the murder weapon with a “How am I going to get out of this one.” expression. It was ironic because we had pretty much come to the consensus that the best thing to do was to kill the bird however the problem was the kid that performed the execution knew nothing of our deliberations and just wanted to smash a bird over the head with a badminton racket. I brought him inside and explained to him in simple English that it was wrong to hit animals and that they should be treated kindly but I also told him that he was lucky that that particular animal was very sick and was already going to die.
Happy Lunar New Year! Lantern Festival is tomorrow which marks the final day of the New Year’s celebrations which means I now only have one more New Year’s celebration to put up with, Songkran. As planned I returned to Malaysia in early February to visit the kids at the children’s shelter. A week and a half ago I came across a box of nectarines that were a bit over-ripe but I could tell they were still good so I bought a few of them. When I got home and ate them I was surprised by just how good they were, so good. So I said I gotta go back to that supermarket in the morning as soon as they open to get the rest of those nectarines!
The next morning I showed up just as they were opening and headed straight for the nectarines. I got there just in time because the guy working in the fruit area said he was about to throw them all in the garbage. Instead of throwing them out he gave them all to me, like 30 small ones for only $1.25! After bringing them all home I threw two or three bad ones into the compost bag and ate over 20 of them for breakfast which amounted to a total of 2.2kg of glorious nectarine pulp. Hoooooo!!! Also If you were in Penang last week and lost 14 Malaysian Ringgit (3.50USD) I picked it up on the side of the street and rather than pocketing it and profiting from your loss I used it to buy more bananas for the kids so now you don’t need to feel bad about losing it. Have a nice March, I’ll post again on April 1st.
I returned to Thailand earlier this month and have been here catching up on some thoughts and things that I put on hold while in Malaysia however as promised I will be going back to visit the kids in Penang next week. Before I do I decided to do the 40 hour water fast that I wanted to do around New Years but put off until I was back in Thailand. As I write this 30 hours in I thought it’d be a good opportunity to challenge you to not eat for a full day and to follow up with an improved plant based diet and healthier eating habits. In the meantime here’s a challenge you can do right now.
Enjoy the full moon and I’ll chime in again a month from now,
P.S. Here’s a slow loris photo I managed to get a couple weeks ago with a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other along with a few recent photos of the kind of habitat you’re likely to find a slow loris or me living in. I also saw a colugo aka kubong a couple weeks ago but I was unable to get a photo. Speaking of forest gliders I had a paradise tree snake on my porch earlier this month and although I haven’t seen any flying dragon lizards this year I did have a couple fly past me while I was in the forest a few months ago.
I hope you had a good 2017 and I hope your 2018 will be even better. I’ve been in Penang for the past few months because I had some visa issues in Thailand. The Thai consulate here in Penang red-stamped my passport for too many back-to-back tourist visas and told me that if I wanted to stay long-term I needed a proper long-term visa. The problem is such a visa is a bit of a pain to get, much more so than a tourist visa which doesn’t require many documents, a Thai spouse, or a Thai sponsor, e.g., a business or school. The red warning stamp usually means they won’t issue you any more tourist visas at least not for a while or perhaps until you apply in your home country rather than in one of the countries bordering Thailand however I wrote them a letter explaining why I needed one more and luckily they gave one to me. That last 60 day + 30 day extension = 90 day tourist visa finished in October. When I stopped flying in order to do my part to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions I was afraid this would happen. Before I could fly once a year from Thailand to Taiwan and back and that eliminated the need for me to get too many back-to-back visas in either place. If only Taiwan was a short train ride away from my home in Thailand like Malaysia is.
2017 begins much like 2016 ended, rain and more rain. After a few days of heavy rain the once peaceful little creek that ran along the side of my home has swollen into a raging river. I’m not too worried about that however I am a bit worried about all the rain bringing down a large tree on a steep slope that has my roof in its sights. Earlier today I went to pick some fruit but was unable to make it to the orchard due to much bigger raging river. I thought about testing my luck but if the rapidly moving knee deep water that was covering the narrow bridge took out one of my legs the other would certainly follow and I’d be washed off the bridge and pummeled against many boulders as I was sent downstream so it wasn’t worth it, not even for some rollinia.
Today is the first day of the last month of the year and I hope this month will be far less disappointing than last month. I’ve been relatively busy with work and thinking deep thoughts the past couple weeks so you may have noticed I haven’t been posting like I was Pre-Trump. I won’t be chiming in here again until New Years however in the meantime I will continue to try and help get important links noticed on Twitter.
P.S. A friend of someone I buy fruit from got hit by a car a few days ago in front of the fruit sellers home, went into a coma, and died a few days later. It reminded me of a very promising individual who was hit and killed on his bike at the age of 14 by a careless driver so with both of them in mind I say please be careful on and around the road especially if you happen to be in Thailand or in one of the few other places with as abysmal of a traffic safety record.
I went to the beach today in hopes some sun, sand, and salt water would cleanse me of the last 24 hours. I did some snorkeling and saw some beautiful fish as I picked a few pieces of old plastic out of the ocean. Seeing an old and disintegrating plastic bag that has become attached to the sea floor wave back and forth with the currents like an underwater plant makes you realize how easy it is for a hungry fish to nibble away at it thinking it was food and not something that was going to get stuck in its stomach and eventually kill it. The largest fish I saw was only about half the size of my hand probably because like in many other parts of the world people have eaten just about anything worth eating however there were still small fish which came in a variety of shapes and colors.
I wonder if the decedents of these fish will be there when children today are my age or if they will vanish along with most of the world’s coral reefs due to a slight increase in water temperature and acidity as a result of all the carbon released into the atmosphere from all the fossil fuels we’re burning and forests we’re cutting down in order to satisfy our hunger for cheap meat and palm oil? While I was waiting for the boat back I was passed by a morbidly obese man probably in his late twenties. One of the Thai boatmen said “Hey, where you from?” and he replied “New York City.”, then the Thai boatman says “New York City, Mr. Trump!” and the fat guy says “Mr. Trump” as he does a big thumbs up at which time the same nausea and leg weakness I experienced on election night slightly returned as I once again thought about all the environmental consequences of this election. Should have been Bernie however it is what it is, now it’s time to fuel up and fight on!
Yesterday I took what I guess was a 3 or 4km hike up a slippery mountain slope in search of a waterfall. There were no signs just a very narrow path used by off-road motorcycles which the locals use to haul down fruit. However I went late in the afternoon so the motocross fruit farmers had already gone home for the day and there was nobody in the mountain forest and I couldn’t get a phone signal. Although it was only a short hike from 3G and the rest of civilization you could really feel the disconnect. After a bath in what was probably the coldest water I’ve ever experienced in Southeast Asia I headed back just before it got dark to continue working on some work stuff. Continue reading
Yesterday I was working and reading on my computer for most of the day and didn’t get much farther than my front porch so today I decided to get away from my computer and go for a long walk. Today’s walk was around 20km and culminated in a refreshing swim in a cool mountain river followed by some freshly fallen durian. I’m not a fan of dogs or pets in general, particularly those that are more like prisoners such as caged birds that have been robbed the ability to fly, but any dog that loves durian as much as this old stray/abandoned dog did is fine with me.
Last night I was out walking around enjoying the sights and sounds of some of the local frogs and toads. Then today at the market I saw some more frogs but they weren’t making any sounds and I didn’t enjoy seeing them. As far as the locals are concerned there’s nothing wrong with ripping the skin off of a living frog and letting it slowly die over a period of what I guess could be hours. As is generally the case when I see something that is just plain wrong I spoke up in hopes that it will help raise awareness and influence future behavior. If you’re going to eat an animal or its parts and excretions then you should know how it was caught or raised and how it was killed and be alright with that otherwise you shouldn’t eat it.
P.S. If you want to see seven terrible seconds of what I was talking about click here, if not enjoy the happy toad photo below.