Love and Relationship

Everyone loves a good love story, right?

Where do I begin? Let me start at the end, when I met Perry at Maybelle’s Coffee Garden in Phuket. He has just returned from his wedding ceremony in Korat in the northeast of Thailand. A glistening gold ring on his finger engraved with Phichawi Perry. This spurred me to write this blog as a testament to a Thai love story.

Maybelle’s Coffee Garden

The love story began at Maybelle’s Coffee Garden, a melting pot for those arriving via the Phuket Sandbox. You will literally find all sorts of people here, from those sipping health smoothies or wheatgrass shots, or those after a pre training coffee who have found Muay Thai as fitness their saviour. Or the ‘Stuff it! Life is for living!’ guys ordering a Big Baddy brekkie with black pudding! From hairy arsed traders to cool crypto currency geeks speaking in foreign tongues, coffee for us ladies – of all ages, we are an eclectic international mix. Drawn into coffee conversations are tales of life’s triumphs and adversities, and occasionally a love story. There is never a dull moment at Maybelle’s!

Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube

Maybelle’s Coffee Garden is an off-the-beaten-track destination, tucked away by the main road. Most arrivals seeking out Maybelle’s million-dollar smile, as Richie calls it, already know the lay of the land from watching Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube channel. 

Here, an overseas bloke meets and falls in love with a beautiful Thai lady. The attraction of their story is replicated many times over in this coffee garden by those drawn to meet them and share their own similar and very personal love stories. It’s not all boy meets girl, this week I meet an Aussie lass who meets and falls in love with her Thai Muay Thai teacher.

Love in the garden

The first thing you see when arriving at the cafe is a giant love heart with a bench in its middle – a perfect Instagram photo spot, or just a place to cuddle up for a happy snap. Richie and Maybelle’s are as captivating in person as they are on camera with an ever growing number of 16,000 plus subscribers.

No wonder they inspired Perry to push through the obstacles of pandemic life to return to his long awaited wedding ceremony to Phichawi. Perry like Richie is from the UK. He has been coming to Thailand for twenty years, returning year after year for the beaches, hot weather, Thai food, attracted by the friendly people and the freedom to explore Phuket on his bike. 

Perry met Phichawi who worked at a restaurant in Patong in December 2018, on a stopover to see his daughter in Australia. Phichawi had moved to Phuket for work after her husband was killed in a motor scooter accident, leaving behind her two children to be looked after separately by her mother and her mother in law. 

Perry laughs telling how the shy Phichawi stood him up when he invited her to join him on his motorbike to visit the Big Buddha. She said she slept in, after all, her work was long hours and she was always tired.

Luckily, Perry gave Phichawi a second chance and by the end his visit they knew it was serious. Perry cut short his Australian holiday returning to Phuket on the homeward leg, to be with Phichawi. 

With Perry’s support, she was now able to realise her dream of owning a shop in her village and give up the all night work. She packs in her job and Perry takes her back home to be reunited with her two teenage children. 

By Jan 2020 Perry returned to Thailand to complete the legal paper work and marry his Thai sweetheart. But with Covid looming they were not able to have the big village marriage celebration they hoped for. Perry returned to the UK for work knowing that Phichawi was safe amongst family in her village. 

During the seventeen months that Covid kept them apart, Perry found Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube channel. With a similar love story to theirs, Perry’s was inspired to return to Thailand arriving via the Phuket Sandbox entry scheme that permits quarantine free entry to fully vaccinated people with a negative Covid test. Perry saw this as his chance.

 

Unfortunately, rising Covid cases across Thailand caused Phuket to instigate additional health safety requirements and closed to domestic arrivals. Additionally, all domestic flights in Thailand were on hold, with Phichawi unable to enter Phuket. 

Meanwhile Perry completed his mandatory 14 days in Phuket then took an overnight bus to Bangkok, a 14 hour journey. From there, another five hours by taxi to Korat.

But love in a pandemic meant no romantic reunion. Oh, no!  After seventeen months apart there was to be no flinging arms around each other, especially under the ever watchful eye of the Korat quarantine officer. Pichawi’s village elder consented to let Perry enter the village providing he did a 14 day quarantine at a motel in Korat. Twice a day Phichawi made the 10km trip to deliver food to Perry. 

Perry is respectful of local rules, which meant that eventually he could return to Phichawi’s village. He realised it was an honour, as he was the only Farang, (western foreigner) there. After a lengthy quarantine and endless negative Covid tests Perry was finally allowed to join Phichawi and her kids. 

The village at the time was in a dark red zone (the highest level of Covid health precautions) so Perry was confined to the house and the garden. The house has been decorated since he last saw it, the walls painted blue, chosen as the perfect backdrop for the wedding photos. Perry never left the premises except for an occasional escorted visit to the 7-11 convenience store.

The wedding celebration was planned to be at home, festively decorated with a banana leaf archway and colourful balloons. The reception was planned for 150 guests, however in Covid times they were allowed only 10 guests within the house, which meant the tricky job of reducing the guest list by 140 and condensing the celebration into three hours. 

Perry amusingly tells us about the wedding ceremony, much of which he laughs in recognition that he had little idea of what was occurring, yet he knows everything is for a reason. Phichawi who speaks English well tries to explain to Perry the many traditions such as the dowry. Perry listens but he wishes he were more skilled at sitting on the floor!

Whilst guests were not allowed in the house, Perry says that somehow he still managed to feed the entire village! He knows this is important as Thai people love their food and he adds with a laugh, ‘If you like to eat 10 times a day, marry a Thai woman. If they are not eating food, they are preparing it!’ 

The following day, one of the wedding guests was declared Covid positive and the house declared a Covid no go zone, with a large warning Covid sign put up and the house taped off. 

After a 14 day of Phuket Sandbox entry, a 10 day motel quarantine in Korat, and now a 14 day Covid isolation is enforced – it is certainly a memorable wedding and honeymoon! 

For more information on the Thai Wedding ceremony here.

Perry is relieved and feels a great sense of accomplishment in being able to finally hold their Thai wedding ceremony. He describes the past year and a half as a testing period, when there were times he wondered if he should sensibly put it all on hold. He felt however that he had to pursue love regardless of the obstacles.

Perry credits Richie with the inspiration to persevere. 

He says, ‘I saw Richie’s love story I thought if he can do it, and he’s from Derby, I can do it as I am from London!’

Wishing Perry and Phichawi a lifetime of love and laughter and happy ever after!

0 comment
1 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Born and raised in the Philippines, Gladwin Pantastico, 40, was surrounded by musicians in his family. Yet, he discovered his love of classical music at just 12 years old. By the time he was doing his music degree in a Filipino conservatory, he had taught classical music for five years in several schools in the Philippines.

Aged 22, when the classical music sector was still evolving in his home country, he realised that making a living out of it was a tough nut to crack. Keen to explore his boundaries, he ventured into the wide world and took his first overseas job offer in the Maldives, where he performed classical music for seven years.

But after some time, staying in the entertainment industry felt like a dead end to him; he wanted to “go back more academic,” and moved to Singapore, where he taught classical music for almost ten years. In 2013, he was designated as general manager of a music school in Singapore and led a team of internationally acclaimed music teachers.

Visiting friends in Phuket, he noticed the lack of music education on Thailand’s largest island – and that was the start of his lifelong journey in a destination better known for beaches, parties, and tourist life. 

His profile offers insight into the different approach to education and child development, the challenges of relocating, and ultimately, setting up a business in Thailand.

Why did you start a music school in Phuket?

“I recognised many children had a talent for music, but there weren’t enough music schools. I thought it was important to introduce western classical music to the young generation and enhance the quality of classical music education with qualified teachers from abroad.”

Gladwin set up his licensed “Phuket School of Music” in 2018 with his Thai partner. His school – registered with the Ministry of Education – has lived to tell the tale and grown despite Covid-19. He believes that foreign teachers and quality instruments are critical to his school’s success.

“It’s imperative to provide high quality instruments to the students because the very foundation for them is to train with responsive and tone sensitive instruments, allowing them to express themselves in performing. We offer programmes for the violin, piano, classical guitar, clarinet, saxophone, singing, and flute, immersing learners in the art of western classical music.”

Phuket School of Music boasts a 70 seat recital studio equipped with a Steinway designed Boston GP178 Performance Edition II, and music rooms furnished with Essex upright pianos by Steinway & Sons, enabling students to learn and perform with superior instruments.

“Speaking of quality instruments, I can safely say that about 95% of major concert halls worldwide use Steinway & Sons, and many institutions prefer to use Steinway designed pianos for their students. Steinway has become the preference of many great musicians.

His enthusiasm is palpable. He stands up, and strokes the grand piano affectionately. “The beauty of this piano is – we always think a piano is the key; that you get the sound you need. But in fact, the piano changes. When you play it softly, it sounds very sweet. When you play it harder, it responds to you. This grand piano can be fierce and bright, like the chiming of a bell. It’s a privilege for a pianist to know how to play a quality instrument,” he raves.

He says it allows the performer to express music with ultimate control of tone, dynamics, and articulation. “The response is very sensitive.”  

Are most of your students children?

“We have lots of young kids aged five to twelve, and there are a couple of teenagers and adults. There are no boundaries; we also teach three year olds.”

Even if a 70 year old signed up, he would accept them. “Music has no age limit; you can learn it at any point in life. But the best age to learn music is usually from age six to nine, so we encourage this generation to take the chance.”

Learning to play an instrument, Gladwin says, is like learning a language. “When you learn it at a young age, it stays with you as you get older.”

Children grow in the school over the years. “And especially nowadays” – he pauses, takes a deep breath – “it’s becoming more competitive; youngsters are getting more into music. Many kids are taking up music at an early age. It’s a privilege. I started late; I was twelve. They begin at four.” 

His father wanted Gladwin to pursue music and have his studio in the Philippines. “He wanted one part of the house to be a music studio, something like that,” he says and laughs heartily. But he never forced him; musical family members surrounded Gladwin. His uncle and cousins were all doing something with music. Eager to gain experience in different countries, he left the Philippines. He believes he learned from that.

For Gladwin, classical music is a lifestyle. “I want to make sure every student who learns here – it’s not just about learning to play a particular instrument – that we also build their character towards music, especially that of young kids.”

He wants the kids to lead the lifestyle of a musician. “It’s not just about the one hour per week that they’re here. When the students go home, it’s important for them to surround themselves with music. Whether it’s listening to music or talking about it, music has to be part of their lives. If they don’t do anything with music in their free time, it can be challenging for them to cope with their lessons. It has to be planted into their lifestyle. And that’s what we teach them.”

Has any of your students made it big?

“Some have joined competitions where they won first, second, and third prizes, but we are still a young school. We encourage kids to set their goals, whether for a performance or music exam – which we offer under the ABRSM – the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, a UK based examination board. And of course, the ABRSM is an excellent programme for all ages. When someone wants to get into university to develop music further, we set a strong foundation for them and help them prepare for auditions.”

What were the biggest challenges of setting up a music business in Thailand?

“I had to make sure moving here was feasible. Was the potential for a music business big enough? I noticed many expatriates want their kids to study at international schools in Phuket. There are also many local schools for sure. I realised every family wants their child to do something with music. And with this population that we have here in Phuket, I saw there was an opportunity.”

Scouting the area for a location, he found this place near Central Festival. “I felt it was the perfect location for the school. Having to start a school from scratch, with zero students, zero teachers, was demanding.”

“Business in Thailand” – he takes a deep breath – “to be honest, it’s a lot of paperwork. And to get to the right people who can show you how it’s done is a challenge.”

He explains you have to know how to develop a curriculum and submit it to the Ministry of Education, which needs to approve it. The school had to be licensed with his concept of employing expat teachers who need visas and work permits. “And qualified music teachers have to earn a decent income to sustain themselves here. We have to balance sustainable rates for the school and keeping them affordable for people.”

Another challenge is the language barrier. Some students aren’t able to communicate well in English, but they understand, somehow. And he has staff that helps him translate in the classes. But if a Thai doesn’t understand English at all, it isn’t child’s play. Some parents deliberately expose their children to this environment, so they learn English in the bargain. 

“Interestingly, it works for many students. Music is a language,” Gladwin says and laughs in a relieved manner.

Each kid responds differently in music, and creating individual solutions isn’t always easy. Some students have longer lessons, one hour or two hours per week, and if they’re preparing for an examination, concert, or any performance, even longer.

What was settling in like?

“I had to find a room, which is difficult if you don’t speak Thai. I was in Singapore for a long time; moving here after living in a fully developed city was a significant change.” He reflects. “Public transport is not as convenient here as in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Manila, where you have the skytrain or subway. You got to have your own car. Other than that, you get everything you need. It’s very liveable.”

When Gladwin moved to Phuket, he always ate at food courts. Big C, Central Festival. Then he discovered eateries like Gluay Nam Wa, a restaurant in Phuket town’s Samkong area. He prefers local dishes now and always eats out as he enjoys the variety of dining options in Phuket. “I stopped going to the malls after a year. You can eat at different places every day for a month and still find new meals and restaurants.”

He thinks Phuket town is a mini city and appreciates the excellent balance in life the island offers. There are many world class hotels, beautiful beaches, and friendly Thais. To be in the centre of the island helped him a lot as it gave him a sense of Phuket’s local lifestyle.

What advice can you give to anyone wanting to move to Thailand, and Phuket in particular?

“It depends on what you want to do. You need to understand the culture, locals, and their lifestyle. How they tick and do things here might be very different from the way they handle things in your country. Many unexpected things might happen.”

He explains that if you want to settle in Phuket as a business person, you need to know the market and blend in.

Gladwin stresses it’s essential to follow your passion. When he moved to Phuket, people were skeptical about a classical music school on the island. “They were like, ‘There’s no market here for a classical concert.’” Gladwin ignored them and organised concerts in 2018 and 2019, and they were sold out.

“Before relocating, I was fully aware that the vast majority of companies targeted tourists. Phuket is and will always be a tourism hotspot. But I am not into that business.” He laughs convincingly and says there are many opportunities. “If you want your project to last, do what you love.”

Are you living your dream?

“Doing something that you love is a dream. But of course, we always try to expand our boundaries; life is an endless journey. For me, helping students grow and seeing them succeed is a dream. It’s a dream come true for them and for us.”

But rather than Holy Grail, for Gladwin, seeing the kids perform well in a concert and achieve high grades “is not just a dream, it’s a fulfilment.”

0 comment
2 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
Soi Dog Foundation warns the importance of global animal health is being overlooked in the fight against pandemics
To mark World Vet Day on April 24, Soi Dog Foundation has joined a number of international organisations in signing an open letter calling on governments and international agencies to invest in animal health and welfare in order to prevent another pandemic.
At least 75% of all new human infectious diseases emerge from animals, including the likes of Covid-19, SARS, Rabies and Ebola (UNEP). Looking ahead, it is vital that we take a One Health approach and recognise the complex relationship between humans, animals and the environment.
The letter, penned by the Action for Animal Health coalition, calls for an immediate injection of funding to map the gaps and train more veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals to standards established by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). By keeping animals healthy and remaining vigilant for new disease outbreaks, veterinarians play a critical role in preventing the next pandemic.
Action for Animal Health, which officially launches the week of May 24 to coincide with the OIE General Assembly, is a coalition of organisations working together to call on policymakers to invest in strengthening animal health systems. Key focuses include the need to increase and improve the global animal health workforce, increase the availability of veterinary medicines and vaccines, improve animal disease detection and surveillance, support community education and promote the One Health approach.
To find out more about the Action for Animal Health coalition and read the letter in full, please visit https://actionforanimalhealth.org/
0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

EmQuartier owned by The Mall Group in Phrom Pong recently launched EMJOY – an open edutainment centre for young children.

EMJOY for the youth of the digital generation in the heart of Sukhumvit is now open for business – and play! 

Expand your children’s imagination and encourage limitless creativity with over 6,000 square metres of educational and extra curricular activities within a fun, safe and colourful environment.

The area on the second floor of Building C the EmQuartier shopping complex is packed with facilities and functional spaces to entertain and enlighten your children and is a perfect destination for the family lifestyle.

EMJOY features the world’s leading institutes, most widely praised by the family community, focusing on encouraging out-of-classroom learning experiences for the younger generation with diverse fields of interest such as Bungee Workout, Choi’s Taekwondo, Code Genius, Copel, D Dance Studio, Haole Chinese Language, I can read, Kolor Me, Kumo Creative Studio, KX Smart Play, Mahidol Music Academy, Math Talent by Dr. Yong, Play Chef, Vocalise and many more.

Located in the zone are Kiddoland, Little Red Fox, Tanwa The Food Project, as well as Greyhound Café, with a new selection of family and kids menus. You can even take your Little Princess to the beauty parlour at Take Care Salon & Beauty, the beauty salon for kids and parents.

Dedicated to our children where they can explore and enjoy EMJOY and meet new friends. There are a variety of shops, restaurants and services that cater exclusively to young children.

The play zone is gaily decorated in a colourful, fun, educational and safe environment. It features functional spaces and convenient amenities, perfect for the family lifestyle, such as children’s restrooms, benches, and playgrounds. 

 

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

The next generation of global citizens from everywhere, from nowhere

For third culture kids answering the question “where are you from” is not so simple. For the children of expats this explanation can take embarrassingly too long and cause some anxiety. Should the answer be one of nationality, where one was born, where one lives presently? Even where ones parents are from?

It was American sociologist Ruth Useem who in the 1950’s first coined the term third culture kid (TCK). She was studying the children of Americans living and working in India. The term was conceived to describe expatriate children who spend their formative years outside of their home country. They are shaped by the multicultural, nomadic spheres of their parents, many of whom are diplomats, military members or working for major multinational corporations. What she observed more than half a century ago rings true today still. Third culture kids are a globe spanning, diverse and highly adaptable lot.

As expat parents many of us find ourselves in the position of raising third culture kids. Even if we have recently moved abroad, the transition from “regular” kid to TCK happens faster than your shipping container might arrive. There are a few fail proof signs to determine if you are dealing with a third culture child. 1) The child’s accent changes depending on who they are talking too, 2) Even young children are very, very good a calculating time differences and flight durations 3) They pick up multi-language curse words before they can pass grade five spelling, 4) They know how the McDonald’s menu varies drastically from country to country. 5) They can convert the price of any toy to least two different currencies in an instant. There is a certain sparkle and fascination when it comes to this group, those with the well stamped passports and perfect recall of the best airport lounge food offerings.

Happy young mother playing and having fun with her little baby son in the park on a sunny summer day. Family on sunset

With the exception this past year due to Covid-19, expat families find themselves relocating frequently to locations that reach even the most remote corners of the globe. Children often transfer from one international school to the next every three to five years. They are exposed to communities populated by peers from dozens of nations with a melting pot of languages, customs and traditions that blend together. From this eclectic realm the concept of the “third” culture is born.

Each expat community differs in terms of the mix of precise backgrounds and nationalities, but what remains consistent is how expat groups prioritise spending time with each other. Their shared experience in a perpetual loop morphing from newbie, to fully settled in, to prepping to move again is at once both relatable and frustrating. There is the initial excitement, then the big ambitious plans to master the local language to the realisation that the posting is nearly complete and it will soon be time to pack out! Expat community members relate to one another on a level that acknowledges this state of impermanence, of always upcoming mobility whether for the annual trek back home to visit family or the move to the next post. The children of expats historically were even pigeonholed into smaller, less complimentary, category labels reflecting where their parents worked – “Army brats,” “biz kids,” “diplo brats,” even “oil kids.” Putting these belittling labels aside, third culture kids do have a unique upbringing. They are comfortable within multicultural settings. They typically are better equipped to deal with newness and change. They have to hone these skills to thrive, after all.

But it is not always smooth sailing for these cultural chameleons. There are some unique challenges to raising third culture kids. Most important may be the stress level they experience when the time comes to repatriate to their home country. A stress that can be compounded by the anticipation of culture shock their parents themselves expect imminently as well. The simplicity of early childhood is a time under appreciated by TCK parents. At the time, parents are too exhausted to recognise the early years are the “honeymoon phase” of third culture kid parenting. The inherently adaptable child will be amendable to trekking along on a variety of outings, even the “boring” cultural stops or rustic hikes through remote hillsides. The challenging teenage years are when the TCK will typically feel more worry over peer issues, fitting in or more accurately worry about being different. These life disruptions do run the risk of having lasting effects from loneliness to depression.

Yet, overall, most highlight that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks of raising third culture kids. The experience also can bring the family closer through these shared times of change and adjustment. So, let’s celebrate the benefits of today’s TCK – an ever digitally connected, creative and curious tribe. This child can become bilingual or multilingual, a skill exceptionally seamless to achieve in the early years when language skills are developing. They can gain a truly worldview perspective getting up close knowledge of everything from cultural events to civil unrest. They can be more sensitive and empathetic to people from different backgrounds and socio-economic groups. They will be highly adaptive. They will have killer stories to share with friends back home and their own children in the future. They will have a network of friends around the globe. They will always think a flight under five hours is a quick commute. They will be natural mathematicians needing to calculate cost of goods between currencies, Amazon import fees and time zone differences for social media chats with friends across an array of globe time zones. They will have a diverse range of favourite foods, goofball jokes and corny songs to love.

Some say being a third culture kids creates a risk of being rootless. Never fully belonging to one place over another. I believe it brings choice, freedom, and adaptability – benefits that are priceless.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

With your family and your partner and yes even with your parents

When was the last time you had a disagreement with someone you cared about? Likely, not too long ago. Conflict in our relationships is a source of a lot of stress for many of us.

At Ruam Chuay, we run workshops on safer relationship skills as part of our interpersonal violence prevention programme. In one of our workshops, we spent some time exploring conflict in intimate relationships and families. At the beginning of the session, we asked the students what they think of conflict. Is it positive, negative, or neutral?

The responses were split across the participants, they either answered that they felt conflict was negative or neutral. No one categorised conflict as positive. Given that often when we experience conflict it is usually accompanied by heightened emotions and intense feelings, this response wasn’t surprising to us.

How do you view conflict?

One of the reasons we are interested in how we respond to conflict and include this within our violence prevention programme is because it is important to distinguish between healthy conflict and emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is when someone uses their words or actions to control or dehumanise another person. This one of the four types of harm we work to prevent. Whereas, healthy conflict is a normal part of our relationships. One of our goals is to equip students with skills and help them learn how to navigate conflict safely.

When faced with a conflict with a partner, parent, sibling, or friend, we all react differently. Some people have a tendency to want to avoid addressing the issue, others want to deal with it right away, some need a little time, and others find themselves somewhere in the middle – wanting to address but not knowing exactly how to navigate the situation.

Our response is typically dependent on how we make sense of and understand conflict. How we understand conflict is based on a few factors. One of them is how we have seen conflict play out in our family and society before. Bobbie Harro describes this process as the cycle of socialisation. The cycle, Harro illustrates, begins in childhood on a personal level from our parents, relatives, and teachers. They are reinforced by institutions and cultural norms we grow up in, such as schools and the media. The result is that we often mirror what we are taught and our thoughts and actions are influenced by the messages we absorb. This cycle applies to many different parts of our lives, including how we perceive conflict.

This is why we posed the question about how the students feel about conflict at the beginning of the workshop. We want to understand what their current perception of conflict is. Which, as shared earlier, was either negative or neutral. While the response was not too surprising to us – given that, typically, socially and culturally, we see conflict as a problem to solve – it was one that we were there to examine together and begin to change.

Conflict in and of itself is not negative or positive. The emotions conflict triggers and the feelings surrounding it are what we categorise as negative or positive. A quick note that we define emotions as the neurobiological and physical response that happens in our body. Whereas, feelings are the way we make sense of these emotions through our beliefs and perception, as described by neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, along with a handful of psychologists and researchers2

So, how do we view conflict? We see conflict as a signal.

Conflict is a signal that there is something deeper going on beneath the surface. It is the tip of the iceberg. If you have ever found yourself caught in the same argument over and over again, with the same person, you have likely experienced what we call only addressing the surface level issue.

When we think of conflict we see it in two layers: the surface level issue and, beneath this, the root cause. When we get into an argument with someone we care about, many of us resolve or deescalate the situation, without taking the time to examine the root cause.

For example, let us say two people who live together are arguing over a messy room. One person might be annoyed the other person always leaves their bags on the floor making the room look untidy. They argue over putting the bags away and decide that moving forward the bags belong in a closet. At that moment, the conflict is considered resolved. Until this happens again. This is because they only addressed the surface level issue.

What could be the root cause? After a conversation, they find out that the person who wants the bags to be put away cares about having a clean space because they feel their space is a reflection of who they are and they like being organised. Whereas, the person who leaves their bags on the floor does it because it’s convenient and they like when things are easily accessible to them. The root cause is a difference in what they value. One person values organisation, while the other values convenience. If you examine some of their other conflicts closely, you might find this root cause shows up in situations too, with different surface level issues.

This example is of a more common type of argument. But, this approach can be applied to more serious issues and topics too. Including the ones we consider taboo. At Ruam Chuay, we create safe spaces for us to discuss topics such as family violence, dating violence, and sex. Many of us instinctively consider these topics taboo. In large part, due to how we are socialised (recall the cycle of socialisation mentioned earlier). When discussing these topics, due to the personal and sensitive nature, people often have disagreements with others about them. Especially if they have different perspectives and levels of understanding of the issue being discussed. Just as described earlier, we take the time to explore the surface level issue and then examine the root cause. Before moving into finding solutions. 

Get to the root cause to create connection. 

We have created these spaces with over 800+ people. The majority of the time, if we are able to get to the root cause, we are able to turn moments of tension into moments of connection. We build better understanding between people involved in these necessary conversations. 

If we take our previous example, the argument over the bags, we might be able to see how people can understand each other better when they hear what the other person values, instead of where the bags will be stored in the house. 

Building this type of understanding in our relationships, whether that is with a parent, partner, sibling, or friend, helps us begin to take steps towards actually addressing our conflicts for the long term. It is also the first step to forming better relationships and connection with the people we care about and creating change.

We understand that this is easier said than done. Navigating conflict safely, and effectively, is an essential relationship skill. Like any skill, it can be learned. At any age. Ruam Chuay’s work is unique in that, not only are we the first and only organisation of its kind in Thailand, but we our work is intergenerational – we work with young adults, parents, and grandparents. We run workshops on safer relationships skills where we explore what safe vs. unsafe relationships look like, understand the lens and perspective to help you strengthen your relationships, and go through tangible exercises to help you put this into practice. 

Doing this work, we see firsthand how a seemingly simple shift in our perception looking at conflict as a signal instead of something negative, neutral, something to avoid, brush off, or deal with head on quickly, makes all the difference. It allows us to change how we approach conflict. Making it less stressful, and more useful. Enabling us to use conflict as an entry point to have meaningful conversations that can help us strengthen our relationships. And, importantly, create safer relationships. 

If you would like to become an advocate for change and help create safer communities, we invite you to join us. After all, “Ruam Chuay” translated to English means “collective support.” 

Refer us or bring a facilitated workshop and talk to your school or organisation by contacting us directly at [email protected] 


1Harro, B. (2013). The Cycle of Socialisation.  M. Adams (Ed.), In Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (pp. 45-52). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.  Lenzen, M. (2005). Feeling Our Emotions. Scientific American.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

When I was little I was laid down to sleep by hands that have felt darkness and light, eyes that have seen grief and pain, yet never allowing us to see it in their gaze. My pancakes were made extra doughy by a woman who has cared for children from third world countries and children from all over the New England states who needed specialised care. My body was hugged and felt safe by a man who rushed to houses in the middle of a cold dark night to save someone’s dream home that was up in flames.  

I grew up playing inside of a funeral home, my siblings and I played hide-and-go-seek behind caskets and thought nothing of the body laying in the room waiting for their family to come see him or her dressed and made up for their final goodbye. In my teenage years I would happily join my Dad on a ride to – pardon the harshness – “go pick up a body” at the airport.  The quiet ride together and the reality of life and death so profound at that age. 

I was raised by The helpers. These helpers are my parents. Helen and Russ. When my father returned from the Vietnam War to find a ‘new normal’ way of life, he worked as a contractor and then later was hired as a funeral assistant at a funeral home, close to where he was raised.  

Years later he went to school to become an EMT and then a full time firefighter. He worked at the funeral home and as a firefighter for 32 and 34 years, respectively.  

My mother and her eldest sister became the first two of three sisters to become nurses. In her career she worked in a children’s hospital, nursing homes and her favourite – which ended her nursing career on paper – a school nurse to elementary school aged children.

Our lives were filled with shift schedules. My Dad entered home in one uniform, to the “station” as it was said in our house. My mom left once he arrived – to work the nightshift to help make ends meet. We heard beepers ring in the night, we were left staring at my father’s empty chair where his Thanksgiving meal was sat, covered in aluminium foil awaiting his safe return from the massive warehouse fire he was helping the neighbouring  city put out.  

Our house did not have a study with a computer, or framed diplomas with their degrees and accolades lining our hallways. Our house was not large, modern or trendy. It was cozy, filled with warm blankets for cuddling up, the smell of cookies and bread being baked in the oven. It was an open door, welcoming, loving, and healing you. It was filled with the noises that alarmed us, let us know something was happening, that there was an emergency, or someone had passed through to the gates of heaven.  

This was my childhood. Early dinners we shared before Dad headed off to his shift just to simply be together. Secret “free” car washes in the back of the station garage that Dad would allow when we had our first car. I can still smell the soap they used. Mom was called on by neighbours, hurt children, ill parents needing home care – could she help? Did she have time to spare?     

Each corner I turned I was praised for their goodness. Teachers, coaches, my friends’ parents acknowledging how my mom or dad had helped them through a death, a tough time, or a moment where they didn’t know where to turn and when they found them they were saved. A gentle word said by my Dad to comfort someone’s loss at a viewing. My Mom’s support and referral to a hospital she knew someone working at, to help connect them to a Doctor and speed up a pending diagnosis. There would be late summer evening knocks at the door to see if she could clean boo-boos from boys who fell off their bikes or out of the tree. She’d greet them with warmness and a tender touch, making you feel instantly better and safe with her voice and hands alone.  

It meant something then, it was a feeling, undefinable until I was older. The feeling would run deep, even at six years old when I was watching my Dad in his fire gear teach my classmates how to “Stop, drop, and roll.” Lessons scheduled each month in our home to make sure we knew our escape route and how to execute. It wasn’t paranoia, it wasn’t overdone. It was simply natural – as if a chef would teach their child to sear a steak or a hairdresser teaching their daughter how to cut her fringe.

Right or wrong, too much or too little, this was how my older sister,  younger brother and I were raised. It was a childhood with caution, awareness, stories of triumph and sadness, and exciting outcomes after heartbreak and fear.  

We learned how to accept disappointment – if my dad made it to our field hockey game we were lucky that day and never took it for granted. Understanding on that day he planned to drive an hour to see our championship game, he never arrived. I’d look for his face, his uniform perhaps to flash on the side of my eye as I dribbled down the sideline – when it didn’t come, I knew he tried. It was just that he had to help and that support he’d be giving may be to someone suffering their  greatest pain.  

My parents have been retired for years.  They’ve been able to have a huge hand in supporting my sister, Heather and her husband Sean raising their three children, Caitlin, Cara and Connor. They’ve made their home into my family’s only home in the USA for the past six years as we’ve lived in Bangkok. Reverting movie rooms back to play rooms, and reconverting bedrooms that had long ago been turned to storage rooms back into bedrooms with Star Wars adorned beds and closets filled with boys shorts and tee shirts from the house we sold. 

Even though their careers ended, The helping did not and it far exceeds my immediate family. When COVID started to become more prevalent in March, I asked my parents while on a FaceTime call what it felt to be them right now. How were they coping, being the helpers of the past and now, unable to due to age and ability? They were quiet, they looked at each other while finding the words. After some time Mom spoke and said “I wish I could do more, I wish I could help, I want to help.” Dad nodded, and said “I agree, it is difficult to sit here and not be doing.”  

We talked more, sharing how the pandemic was impacting healthcare, essential workers, and funeral homes overrun so much so that bodies were placed in refrigerated trucks in parking lots. Both of my parents couldn’t fathom what was happening and how to overcome it. 

If you looked at them and peered into their souls, you would see all they’ve done for others has just made sense and has never been a compromise. There is a world full of these humans and they are to be treasured and appreciated. This pandemic is showing the amount of these selfless beings and in some way I hope we can look at that as a light, that we were able to see what the helpers are dedicated to and how many there are. If I can sure say anything myself, they are capable of a whole heck of a lot.  

“Don’t be hard on yourself, or others. None of us have done this before, none of us know what we are doing. We weren’t trained for this.” Russell F. McKenna Sr. My dad’s first words of encouragement when we went into lockdown in Bangkok and we talked about what it felt like.

Meghan Lynch 

December 9, 2020

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

by Lucy Strange

For all those who are far from home this Christmas, with heartfelt thanks and sincere apologies to the original festive poet, \

Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the flat

Not a creature was stirring (except for the cat).

Two stockings were sitting beside a small tree,

And fairy lights glowed on the dark balcony.

The husband was snoring (a drop too much rum),

While festive indulgences danced in his tum.

And the cat on the duvet had made her night’s nest,

As we all snuggled down for a long winter’s rest.

When out on the road there arose such a clatter,

I leapt from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Expecting to see a vehicular smash…

The fingernail moon, like a smile in the sky,

Hung benignly above the confused passersby,

Who gazed in bewilderment, jaws hanging slack,

At a white bearded man with some gifts in a sack.

He was older than time, but without age’s flaws;

I knew straight away he must be Santa Claus.

His sleigh (which he sat in) was dusted with snow

And I heard his voice boom from the street down below –

“Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen,

Now Comet, now Cupid, now Donner and Blitzen –

We’re dreadfully lost, chaps – you took a wrong turn

And we’re stuck in the desert! I wish you would learn,

Dear Rudolph, to use that red nose that you have,

Instead of entrusting the wretched sat nav.

To the top of that tower! Past the top of the mall!

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”

As dust in a sandstorm will flurry and fly

And, lifting quite weightlessly, take to the sky,

So up to my roof-top the reindeer they flew,

With the sleigh full of presents and Santa Claus too.

And then I imagined I heard on the roof,

The clump of a boot and the stamp of a hoof;

Air conditioning systems were battered and bent

As Santa Claus squeezed down and popped through the vent.

He was dressed all in red, as the stories had told,

And he looked a tad warm – he was dressed for the cold:

His black, fur lined boots came right up to his knees

(Not fitting attire when it’s thirty degrees).

But his eyes danced with laughter, cheeks dimpled with fun,

And he took out two presents – his work had begun.

He walked on his tiptoes towards our small tree,

And, turning around, waved at me, silently.

His eyebrows and beard were as white as the snow;

His smile twinkled between them – his face all aglow

With joy at the pleasure his presents would bring

– And his presence too! (It’s a homophone thing.)

He puffed on a pipe as he gazed at our tree

And picked up the stockings – for hubby and me.

He stuffed in the presents and smiled to himself,

Then took a mince pie from the plate on the shelf –

Mince pies left to show that I did still believe

(Though I’m past thirty four on this dark Christmas Eve).

He took a large bite, smiled, and patted his belly,

Which wobbled a bit, like a cranberry jelly.

He winked at me twice, as he munched, standing there,

And he winked at the cat (who hid under a chair).

He said not a word, simply twinkled at me,

And fixed a dead bulb on the lights on the tree.

He smiled at his work on this unscheduled stop,

And vanished once more through the vent with a pop.

Air conditioning pipes gave a rattle and clang –

He appeared on the roof – to his sleigh Santa sprang!

The reindeer rose up as he asked them to fly;

The sleigh burned like a star in the dark, desert sky,

And I heard him exclaim, ‘ere they flew very far,

“Merry Christmas, ye faithful, wherever you are!”

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
Today the country marks the passing of the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great our beloved Rama IX who died on the 13th October 2016 at the age of 88.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej visited the Tourist Organisation Thailand (now the Tourism Authority of Thailand) on 25 February 1971
When the King visited the Tourism Authority of Thailand (then known as the Tourism Organisation of Thailand) office for the first and only time in February 1971, he had the wisdom to give the TAT, and by extension, the fledgling travel & tourism industry, some guidance on what was really at stake.

He made no mention of job creation, income generation or visitor arrivals. In less than 500 words, he simply recommended building a good global reputation for Thailand by highlighting its real assets – natural beauty, rich culture, well mannered people and way of life. If this can be done, he said, Thailand will enjoy good relations with foreigners.

He advised, “Everything you do you must stress this. I hope everyone who is working (at TAT), does it with strength, thought and concentration so that it will benefit the country. I hope everyone performs their work to the best of their abilities and succeeds in their objectives.”

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

How often should you wash your sheets, pillows, doona and mattress? And when is it time to throw them out? Experts explain how to keep your bed clean

Or perhaps, like this TikTok user’s boyfriend, you’re hanging on to a decade-old set of pillows that have never seen a splash of water.

Homebound and hygiene-conscious, we’re paying more attention to keeping things clean in the bedroom. And while most people probably don’t “season” their sheets, many of us aren’t cleaning our beds as often as we should be.

Sweat, skin cells and tiny prowlers

Is that just plain gross or is it a bigger problem? According to respiratory expert Professor John Blakey from Sir Charles Gairdner hospital in Western Australia, “If you didn’t wash your bedding for a year it would be more than a kilo heavier just because of dead skin.”

It gets worse. Little microscopic dust mite arthropods (like spiders), thrive on these skin cells, particularly on pillows because they love the humid environment. “More than 10% of the weight of the manky pillows will be hundreds of thousands of dust mites and their droppings,” Blakey says. Even if that doesn’t unnerve you, it can be problematic for the millions of Australians who have asthma. Dust mite allergy can also cause all-year-round hayfever-type symptoms.

Other microscopic lurkers that flourish on sweaty old bedding include bacteria that can alter the lungs’ microbiome and lead to infections or interfere with inhaled drugs, says Blakey, along with allergy-causing fungal spores such as Aspergillus fumigatus that can trigger asthma. And to complete the cycle, it’s thought these little spores, which are most commonly found in pillows, might feed on dust mite droppings.

Bed bugs are not as common in Australia as they are elsewhere, but infestations are increasing, and the resulting red welts could be mistaken for eczema. Even skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis can be exacerbated by bacteria that lurk in unwashed bedding, according to dermatologists Dr Steven Shumack from Central Sydney Dermatology. Exposing infected skin to sheets can also cause reinfection. Other nasties to look out for that can hang out in sheets and pillowcases are staphylococcus and scabies.

So, freshly laundered bedding clearly has more perks than the exquisite smell of clean sheets. But when and how should we clean it?

Sheets and pillowcases

Although there is no hard and fast rule, the consensus is that sheets and pillowcases should be washed each week. “I’d be a little worried if people weren’t washing their bedding approximately weekly,” says Blakey, and only a hot wash will kill mites and fungi. The National Asthma Council recommends washing in water hotter than 55C. Failing that, they suggest hot tumble drying for 10 minutes or washing in cold water with a product containing tea tree or eucalyptus oil.

Opening the windows and airing sheets in the sun are also recommended. Shumack suggests people with skin conditions wash even more often, adding that ironing sheets and pillowcases can also help sterilise them.

It should be noted that sweat – and urine – contains urea, which can react with cleaning products and form compounds called nitrosamines which trigger asthma. The best evidence so far in this regard points to bleaches, so it is better to avoid cleaning agents that contain chlorine. Pouring bleach into a bathtub to clean filthy pillows as in the TikTok video “might well make someone wheezy”, notes Blakey. People with skin rashes can also react to certain cleaning products, says Shumack. This can be alleviated by making sure the bedding is rinsed well after washing to avoid any residue.

Pillows

The Good Housekeeping Institute suggests pillows should be washed every six months. But as they are hotspots for dust mites and their teeny friends, Asthma Australia recommends washing and drying them thoroughly each month.

Most pillows will come with cleaning instructions on their tags, so it’s best to follow the manufacturers directions – but if you’ve cut your pillow tags off (or never had them to begin with) down and synthetic pillows can typically be machine washed, while memory foam pillows should be soaked with gentle detergent, rinsed, gently squeezed then left to air-dry.

To keep mites away, the National Asthma Council recommends covering pillows, as well as mattresses and quilts, with mite-resistant cases – which is no substitute for washing them regularly.

Asthma Australia suggests replacing pillows when you notice they’re starting to lose their lustre, while some manufacturers suggest doing this every couple of years.

Doonas

Doonas – and likely other covers like blankets – can also collect dust mites, so these should be at least aired, and ideally washed, regularly. Many doonas and covers are dry-clean only, so pay close attention to the manufacturer’s directions.

While some manufacturers suggest replacing doonas every five years, there’s no hard and fast rule about this, and the lifespan of your duvet will likely depend on how often you wash it.

Either way, if you do want to get rid of your doona or pillow, Friends with Dignity gratefully accept them.

There are other options, too. “The crafty ones among us can upcycle them into large floor cushions, door stops or use for packing and moving,” says Ryan Collins, head of Circular Economy Programs at Planet Ark. Unfortunately, they are not recyclable so will otherwise need to go in the bin.

The mattress

“If you can’t remember when you bought your mattress, get a new one!” says Blakey. He also recommends vacuuming your mattress when you’re hoovering the floors, and for sensitive people, using allergen-impregnable covers to help avoid contact with dust mites and their droppings.

Disposing of mattresses can cause other problems, though. Collins says 1.6 to 1.8 million are thrown out every year in Australia alone. Only half are recycled, so the rest end up in landfill. This is a problem because they are hard to compact and take up a lot of space. And most of their components, such as wood, foam, fabric and steel springs, can be recycled. “By not recycling these materials we’re wasting the resources, energy and water that went into making the product in the first case,” says Collins.

Many councils around Australia provide mattress recycling services, although there may be a fee, and some mattress retailers or brands have a return service. If the mattress is in good condition, it can be cleaned and reused or donated to charities. Householders can search RecyclingNearYou.com.au for drop-off and pick-up services, and businesses can search BusinessRecycling.com.au.

Even though these measures can help keep mites and other little lurkers at bay, all-round cleanliness certainly helps. Blakey says not to forget about exposure from other sources like sofas, rugs, clothes and office chairs. “Just having a clean bed isn’t going to be a cure-all.”

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
Newer Posts