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Thailand Revisited

After Nepal, Koh Tao

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Date: Sun, 05 Nov 00 09:11AM EST 
after an evening in which tom slept. listened to ben harper and watched this thai fisherman beat the hell out of a basket full of eels. one at a time. from the balcony of our posh hotel room. somehow in the struggle to make the lurch to bed one of my toenails fell-----tore??? off. the nail beneath is a work in progress, at least i hope it progresses. looks all dull, yellowish and lumpy. hmmmmmm. the right big toenail is turning the most remarkable shade of purple.

hiking.......mmmmmmmm that's how i blew my toenails. steep downness for 6 hours and a fluffy new pair of socks(the fuckers). toe banging. but, i'd love to hike some more. how about some winter wanderings? you heading home for the holidaze? i think tom and i are going to snorelando. tom's got no return on stench. the antibiotics are helping. he's been checking out all the available shitters this trip. and there have been many. boats, planes, buses, and trains (a sleeper berth, cool stuff) we're gettin' certified PADI. here on the island of koh tao. gonna miss those wrecked cars in the quarries......... mona. oh tom insists that he does say hello.

Date: Mon, 06 Nov 00 07:29AM EST 
yup, tom's mighty swank in neoprene and mask. makes me swoon. so here we are in thailand, breathing beneath chlorine today. tomorrow the waves. this evening we padded along sandy roads to the mex bar and had chicken sizzlers and beer. yummy. life is pretty fine. both my toenails are falling away. the underneath is not quite a nail yet. lumpy pink funky flesh. perhaps i will forever after live in toenail shame. no more joyous open toed shoes. sigh... i'll wear'm anyhow. lotus are us. though i doubt thai or nepali pop we keep catching will make it's way to bloomingtown. no huge loss i promise.

no carry rides in the himalaya. though part of this big fest (besides beheading lots of goats, chickens, and buffalos) are these 20-30 foot high swings made of bamboo supports. four of them lashed with tree bark (i think), set on thehills outside of small villages. breathtaking drops usually follow at the apex of the pendulum. whee. just as good as a carny ride. 120-% more beautiful. and without the seedy bedraggled carny guys taking all your cash to have a go.

no one pukes, except maybe after watching a few too many beheadings of the goats. they do have a tendency to twitch in the most disconcerting manner. luckily i've watched enough human corpses do the same thing freshly dead (though not beheaded, i guess bodies are always surprised to find themselves dead) that i'm kind of immune... kind of.... hope all is well in b town. sorry to miss the fall. be well.

mushiness mona

Date: Tue, 07 Nov 00 08:54AM EST 
has your head suddenly impacted your keyboard from shear mind boggling boredom? i think these were all. don't be too forlorn. we've been through 2 courses of antibiotics......... tom and i are home the 14 of december. and headed down florida way for the holiday. we'll stop in ashevegas one way or the other. are you all headed off for a little randr this holiday? would be very good to see you. more dal baht. now we're using personal underwater breathing devices, frightening fish, practicing budda like floating positions, and sucking down pad thai. most fine. farting with confidence once again.

hugs and squishes. mona

Date: Tue, 07 Nov 00 23:51PM EST 
finally getting some time for the personal mails... The internet in Nepal is painfully slow. Traveled a couple of days down to south Thailand. Now on Koh Tao, learning scuba. Cool shit. This is as near as we get to NZ, but we might actually go to NZ for a wedding in March or April. I don't think we can afford it though. Sunny, breezy, and lots of tropical underwater humans here. Also some fish. And piles of sand-wah-wah - some kind of worm, I'm told. Soon we go up to NE Thailand to work in farming for two weeks. Our health is well, although we did resort to cipro this week for belly squirts. Too painful and lasting to consider diving without the meds. Eating yogurt daily.

Hope all is well in your mad mad world! tom

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 00 00:00AM EST 
> I'm glad that you are both OK. I got your phone message. It was a little choppy, but I got the idea.

the second call was an internet call, only about 7cents a minute. The first call, before we left Hile, was by phone and about 3 dollars a minute. I imagine that one was a bit exciting? Mona was getting on my case for not making all of these contingency plans, according to the trekking guidebook recommendations, so that soothed things a bit. Thanks for fielding the call! Did you ever look up any of the locations I mentioned?

> Mocha & Crusty are as clingy as ever. I took Mocha to the vet. She had tape worms. It's the only thing 
> that her heartworm meds won't kill.

Thanks for the care. I hope that you are enjoying the mammal overdosages. As I wrote elsewhere, we are jonesing for some of that fuzzy love.

> Have a safe journey.

We will, if I remember to include that in the plans. We're now on an island in the South China Sea, Koh Tao. Scuba is very cool. Much less nerve wracking than learning whitewater, skydiving, or even climbing. I didn't know there were outdoor activities besides walking where your most important goal is to relax!

Enjoy the cool weather, Tom

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 00 00:14AM EST 
> I got to watch a cute little goat get it too. Glad I was a vegetarian at the time.

I got into the whole experience, took pictures. Glad I was a meat eater at the time! I finally got to see how the meat goes from warm and fuzzy to hot and greasy.

> hope you've recovered from the revenge. Cipro is great.

Yup. Even better the second time! Both of my gut troubles were from the food in Thamel/Kdu. All were well the entire time of our trek. Although, a number of people on the raft trip were illin, but that would have a lot to do with the communal camping kitchen, and probably also with being in Kdu prior to the trip.

 Nice people here, though, so we try to just go with whatever happens. In Nepal all sandwiches are burgers, and rarely do you find a burger that actually has hamburger. So today I ordered an egg and cheese burger for breakfast, expecting a nice little sandwich. Instead I got a big, fat burger with egg and cheese on top. It was ok, but kind of excessive.

The weather here on the island of Koh Tao is warm, sunny, breezy, and occasionally very damp as we learn our scuba tricks. FUN.


Date: Thu, 09 Nov 00 03:06AM EST 
How's life in the big worm? We've talked about living there. It's a cool place to visit anyway - kind of like Bangkok. I'm not sure I would say the same about Kathmandu. Cool place to visit, if you like gastric challenges, but it would take some work to live there properly, that is, without getting sick all the time. We had great luck in the mountains, eating properly, and well, then were tummy sick for a mjority of the ten days in Kdu. Still, Nepal is worthy of long visits. Great cultures, good foodings, and interesting landscapes.

> Travel safe, kids. And don't drink the water, pet the mangy dogs, talk to strangers, or do drugs. OK?

No promises. The safety hinges on too many drivers guided by the spirit world, The water at 18meters down is a bit salty, but tastes pretty good. Some of the dogs are irresistable, strangers have all the good weed, and drugs - well, sometimes you gotta do the Cipro.

Scuba is cool. Best o luck in the city. I have read about some really good kayaking, not just around the islands, but there are even some redev efforts along one or two of the rivers there. That could be very educational.

Lots of love, and hello to your mum, Tom

Date: Thu, 09 Nov 00 03:24AM EST 
Hey cool cat! Glad to keep you in the loop, with the travelogues, although it may not be necessary, since we seemed to have a good meeting last night in my dreams. It was good to see you, and keep up the good work! I hope you guys have some big fun with this next record. Besides all the perfectionism, I think that is supposed to be one of the purposes. But what do I know, I'm just a beach bum. That's right, we're on an island in the South china Sea now, learning scuba. Quite entertaining. The food is quite tasty, as well, and we have some good books.

Catching up on replies today, so I hope to send a mass-mailer someday soon.

Love and friendship, Tom

Date: Thu, 09 Nov 00 03:45AM EST 
It's been a while since the last mass-mailing. We're on Koh Tao, now, in the South China Sea, learning scuba. Deeply entertaining.

I finished an MS in Computer Science, glad to get away from that scene for a while, maybe for good. Still have a home in bloomington, IN, which is a wonderful place. Excellent gardening, a town full of all kinds of people, community radio kicks ass, caving, ballooning, and lakes and hills. We haven't done any caving or ballooning yet, but I have been throwing the boomerang quite a bit. Now maybe we'll dive down and explore the flooded towns under Lake Monroe. Actually it would be nice to return to WNC, but I haven't been pursuing the work end very hard.

Seeya, Tom

Ubon Ratchathani

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Date: Sun, 12 Nov 00 23:41PM EST 
Subject: Ubon bon

Hi everyone. We've been scuba diving in Koh Tao, an island in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand. Fun times. We rode a ferry back to the mainland, then caught a sleeper train back up to Bangkok. We cruised the town for the day, then caught another sleeper to Ubon Ratchathani. Nice mode of travel, especially with the easily available wowlium to take the edge off.

We were met at the station by Greenway, who took us to an email depot before we head into the sticks. We'll stay in a little village for two weeks to work in and study Thai methods of sustainable agriculture. So a couple more weeks away from the conveniences of email culture - we'll let you know how it went! Until then, may all your crops flourish in harmony with the moon and tides, sun and rivers, clouds and breeze.

Looking forward to learning some real Thai, Tom

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 00 07:05AM EST 
Life here on the commune is head spinning. so many paradoxes for a democratic anarchist on so many levels. I hope to share them with the whole list soon. We've actually escaped the very nice environs of the commune for a night of capitalism in the city. And what do we do? Why we email our best friends that's what :-)

See ya, tv

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 00 08:03AM EST 
Maybe the mass mailings don't do so well in VN when they are long, who knows.

We won't leave Ubon until Nov 25, but then we don't fly to Danang until the 28th. We return to BKK on Dec 11, though, so if we're not going to be in the way, we really would simply enjoy having someone to bounce ideas off of for seeing North Vietnam in an interesting way. Hanoi will be great, I expect, but we would also like to be able to see some country and mountains and rivers - in a quiet and discrete fashion. We are getting a huge dose this week and next of rural living, so I think we have that fix covered. Have you heard of "the controversial" Asoke Buddhism in Thailand? They're utopian communal ascetic sustainable agricultural reformist buddhists. They are very kind, fun, loving... everything you could hope for in a utopian commune, and really not too aggressively evangelical. They would love for us to join them, but here we sit, in the city, taking a weekend away from the whole scene, without a word of protest. Quite a surprisingly honest bunch of idealists. Too bad we're such independent anarchist capitalists. Or maybe that's good. I don't know. My head has been spinning with the paradoxes of utopianism and world history!

So, anyway, sorry we can't meet you in Danang. We would love to bounce ideas off of you in Hanoi. Also, if you have any good ideas for the train trip between Danang and Hanoi, we would love some diversions. We have also recently certified in scuba if you know of any cool places. But we love the hills even more than the coast, so whatever.

Cheers, Tom

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 00 08:26AM EST 
Hey buckaroo, Glad to hear from you, here in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani. The Lotus Province. And home of the US air base for the Indochina bombings. Also home of utopian agricultural ascetic vegan reformist buddhists! What that means for your friendly Indiana embolisms is a week - so far - of head spinning struggles with the paradoxes of communal idealism and the eternal struggles against the corruption of power. And all that kind of stuff. More in the mass email.

Basically, we're harvesting rice with a bunch of friendly idealistic buddhists. Probably cooler than most commune dwellers in the states. Their introductory text is an anthropoligical phd thesis from Finland that does not take any sides the way a typical tract would. And the food is great. We did escape for the weekend to eat duck and beer, however. It's our fucking capitalist vacation after all.

Glad to read about visits from family! We are looking forward to some time with family in Florida. We're also concerned about our buddhist friends here, as they seem to cut their ties with family to join the Asoke community. Not sustainable, in my opinion, but then there is a lot of negative press due to theire opposition to the state sponsored buddhism, which makes them seem unpopular. It's a massive roller coaster ride, that's for sure. But back to you . I hope you're finding some massive down time at cowbell, and that the Green is full of delights and insights.

We'll be rolling through NC on the way down to FL after mid-December. I know you like to visit family, too, so let us know soon if you'll be around. We should return sometime in early January, but there's always the chance that we'll go through New Orleans or maybe Camden if we're lucky.

Peace and respects, Tom

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 00 08:36AM EST 
Damn. This utopian buddhist commune is a serious head trip. More in the mass email.

We leave for Vietnam Nov 28, then return to Bangkok Dec 11. who knows who you will meet should we see you there! We are freaking on the Asian continent big time. And no drugs. We just missed a huge rave near the scuba island, but that's probably a good thing. And of course there are the prescription drugs here...

Anyway, life is cool. Harvesting rice is good for the soul!
keep in touch, Tom

Date: Sun, 19 Nov 00 06:31AM EST 
Greetings from the Lotus city, Ubon Ratchathani! We are presently taking a weekend break from life on a fundamentalist buddhist idealist agricultural vegan ascetic commune. Today we ate chicken on a stick. That was after touring a very cool Khmer wat in contested Thai/Cambodian territory. Pretty cool to visit an ancient Hindu temple with an active howitzer on guard. Things are pretty mellow now that the Khmer Rouge seem to have been run into the ground. They were super freaks, but the idea of communal living in harmony with nature is not a bad one, and our new buddhist friends seem to have some success in making it work. More in the super special new and improved mass mail bonus pack.

You are welcome for the card. Sorry about the postmark. We will be here a week longer, then we venture in to Vietnam. We have a contact there on Fulbright for something, and his wife does social work. So we hope to see some cool parts of Hanoi, and hopefully the hills of north VN. Back in time for christmas with the family in Florida. Rough, I know. Then back to work.

Heard of any interesting work environments in Asheville? I do scientific computing as a specialty, but would consider learning more about system administration. Mostly a Solaris fan, but it's all the same to me, as long as it doesn't ask me if I am sure I want to do that. We actually saw CNN revoke their Florida prediction during an afternoon over beers and scuba logging. Amusing, but not that important. I am one of the four percent who have a clue.

well, on to the bonus pack, I think. I love these little email/gaming havens here! 25 cents an hour, I shit you not, and beer and ice cream delivered right to your keyboard.

May all your beverages be specially brewed, Tom

Date: Sun, 19 Nov 00 06:46AM EST 
> Thanks for keeping us all updated.

You are very welcome, most honorable and respected community volunteer. Wait til you hear the latest!

The election was good for laughs over beers after scuba-ing. Now it is interesting to me, but I just check in with Yahoo news, when I get a chance. What the hell is wrong with a new vote, for president only? The ballots would be much simpler. Ah well, I have the clarity of buddha when I type with a full bottle of Leo beer at my side.

> I hope y'all continue with your journey with no obstacles in your path and the spirit of adventure at hand.

Wow. Thank-you, yes. Or, in Thai, Khawp-Koon, Khrap. Best wishes to you for many smooth segues and even smoother balances and swings, Tom

Date: Sun, 19 Nov 00 07:28AM EST 
Conversation goes a long way in the rice fileds, but so does a steady buzz. It's ok, the comunal ascetics we are living with are very sweet, and they are opposed to intoxicants. But if it made me sing and talk more, they probably wouldn't mind, seeing as how I'm not in the commune anyway! Only a few days ago, I was spinning from the paradoxes inherent in this world, today, I still am. We had a day off (tomorrow too), so we visited a Khmer temple ruin at the Cambodian border. Awesome ancient stones alongside recently fired howitzers. Hinduism and capitalism. Still haven't quite figured out if the army guards under the Cambodian flag at temple one were Thai or Cambodian. Oh, fluency, why do you hide beneath my listless tongue?? I have learned words, in two days, in Lao, Khmer, and Thai. No local languages though.

We did have some recently fermented fruit juice with lunch, and the sticky rice goes well with just about everything, including, in my untrained case, my left hand!

More in the super bonus fun pack mass email, Love, Tom

Date: Sun, 19 Nov 00 07:42AM EST 
Subject: rice sticks

greetings! from the organic rice fields of ubon's (thailand) buddist commune..... the members ask us daily whether we'll join their community... they are so deeply sweet. but how many ways are there to gently say no thank you across the language barrier? we got here, well, maybe back to nepal for a brief catch up. tom's left us at tashigon. starting up the national park part of our trek to makalu. meaning tashigon was the last nepali stylie quickie mart to be had to load up our packs with fuel and eatables before seeing makalu's glorious feet.

i am still amazed at the good fortune of meeting the doctor back along the trail who drilled holes in my fat toes to reduce them to almost human proportion. i'd been worried that the only feet i'd view would be my own. with food, fuel, and a fine pair of sandals we began the ascent to see the himalaya up close. the day after tashigon we panted up 1400 m to reach frigid cold khongma. the porter's stove didn't work when we sat down to start up dinner....... as the three euros sat and talked about whether we could make it with two stoves, naghendra and diwan started back down the 1400m. yikes! they were down and back in just over 4 hours. took us 4 to begin with. and so, then a day to dobato--- the rhodo forest replaced the deciduous, we clung to the last edge of the campsite. the 12 member german group and their 60 odd porters, guides, and sherpas held most of the area. the porters were fascinated with the sight of euros cooking dinner for their nepali staff. they came and crouched in our campsite and giggled and stared. dahl baht ruled the menu even here, rice at altitude on a whisper lite's blowtorch is a trick. the next day we were on to tadaksa kharka.

cruising up shipton la (4000ish m) incredible views, clear as a bell, the mountains grow, the vegetation gets smaller. (a la is a pass, a kharka is a field---more or less) there are lakes in between the ridges. the water so still and clean i misjudged where the air ended and the lake began. shersong the final camp spot came at the end of the following day, we traveled over the alluvial fields at the mountains feet, watched water then snow spill off the mountains shoulders. the avalanches continued into the night sounding like gunshots. twas right cold that night. the next morning found tom and i trudging along the ridgeline leading up to the ice fields at makalu's beginning. at the end of this breathless stony bit we were supposed to be around 6000m (makalu's the fifth highest peak in the world at 8000+m) makalu looked monster and up the valley we could see everest and lohtse. the altitude made us pant even along the flat field at the top of the ridge. ahhhhh.......the first good chocolate fix since kathmandu--- fine stuff.

then we dropped down to the base camp for those touched in the head enough to continue up makalu and followed the drainage back down to our camp. we took five days to return along the trial to tashigon and booked our flight back to kathmandu. in kathmandu we promptly got the traveler's woes and were tied for awhile to hotel room and the porcelain pedestal. fixed with cipro, available at the grocery stores there, on the shelf next to the whiskey. we wandered about the town- read books- bought things--ate all sorts of nice fatty euro food-- people watched--- and then we flew to bangkok, trotted across the crosswalk from the airport to the train station and bought tix for the overnight train to south thailand, a package deal with a bus to the port of chumphong and a boat over to koh tao. where we read books---people watched--- ate really good thai food--- fllippered ourselves and some air tanks around the edge of the island and learned to control our bouyancy.

......and then we got another couple of overnight trains on consecutive nights with a day in bangkok in between--coffee, ice cream, software, horses at the parliament, a tuk tuk, bulbs--- to be here, to cut rice in the paddy, eat vegan food, learn about an extreme form of Buddhism, and ...... that's about enough don't you all think? (as i look back and try to fix the gross spelling errors the mouse struggles with me......... ah well......time for it goes) be well


Date: Mon, 20 Nov 00 05:38AM EST 
Subject: Talking about Chairman Mao

Hello again, An earlier than expected update, thanks to an unexpected reprieve from the horrors of holy communism, and first, another super fun pack bonus from the keys of the most honorable and delicious Mrs. Mona: [see above] Or, as I said earlier, we climbed a bunch of ridges, came back down, then wandered around Kathmandu, where we puked, squatted, and purged our wallets. Now, can I cover the mind boggling thrills of ascetic communal buddhism in the fifteen minutes before we amble down to the Sincere Restaurant? I don't think so, But let's try a little prelude, at least, and maybe finish up a week from now.

"Hook the loudspeakers up... Communism is good!" -- from Negativland's Christianity is Stupid.

So we met Bow at the train station, and we drove down the Mun River to the Ratchathani Asoke monastery. Bow is a young Greenway guide from South Thailand, very friendly and a bit inexperienced in his profession. Also with us are Jeff from NYC, Sanna from Holland, and Misa Ko from Japan. We arrived in a large, quaint farming compound with a gigantic meeting hall built on massive sonotube pillars. It is winter here, so the water is at the low levels, that is, within the banks of the river, and not 10 feet above the fields! We were greeted by some elders, but not monks, who briefly introduce us to a few rules. Notably, Asoke Buddhists place partner love as the lowest from of love in a a ten dimensional love ladder. In other words, Mona and I were expected to sleep in separate houses. I admit, our time on the island was hot and humid, and I did not do my best to protest, although we did both ask about the logistics of Asoke buddhist reproduction. I relented, recalling some of our hostel dorm living from previous travels, but then, when Mona was being shown the women's house, there was discussion about our general happiness with the commune, and the admittedly rough start.

We ended up in our own house, and a short while later met a monk who acknowledged that he knew what we were doing and that he approved. Well goody goody. Respect is not exactly my most developed feature. We then walked down to the river, and played around in some little boats and generally settled down a little bit. Meanwhile the loudspeaker was frequently blaring Thai messages across the compound, so I asked Bow, what that was about. "Oh, you know, like so and so, you have a message from your cousin... stuff like that." None of the homes have phones, so messages, along with plenty of sermonizing blares across the land on the breeze and through the walls. Dinner was a delicious vegan feast, the first of many delicious Thai meals completely devoid of animal products of all kinds, which is quite rare in Thailand. If you have encountered Shaker communities in the US, or at least Amish, and combine that with some high tech audio equipment such as you might have seen the Viet Cong use in Apocalypse Now, you might have an idea of the lifestyle we dove into. Add to that organic veganism, and you have some idea of what Asoke Buddhism is.

There is silence from 9pm until 4am, so there is peace at night, provide your mosquito net is properly rigged. Wake at 4 to the then hourly beep on the mic, and a full hour of Buddhist preaching, in Thai, and then, by 5 you should be ready to hit the fields or begin whatever morning jobs you have. Scared yet? Our minds have been spinning all week with the contradictions and paradoxes of loving, honest, idealistic, agricultural, communal asceticism and the challenges of maintaining order and productivity in an independent community. By the end of that first hour of preaching, I am sure all of us were planning our escapes and backup plans. That second day, however, we simply drove to another Asoke commune, in a young forest, with a large school and gardens. It was an easy day. The highlight was finding an Asoke who spoke English well, and was willing to share all of the basic concepts of sustainable living Asoke style. We quizzed him a great deal on the ideas behind vegetarianism, love, and capitalism, and were quite pleased with ourselves for detecting contradictions. But when you think about it, that's about what the world is made of, regardless of philosophy, so I can't be too critical of their attempts to create order in the world.

The Asokes are quite successful at farming, educating youth, and helping all of their members find peace in their efforts to work hard, live honestly, and share everything, and give to society. I am impressed. That afternoon, we also met a couple of American students, one from Kenyon, who knows and sang with my lab partner at Indiana University, and the other a computer science graduate at Penn State. We covered some good ground on this amazing attempt at utopia. Another vegan feast that evening, and rest in our little houses with no electricity, but running water (sometimes), and then we had another joyous awakening to the Thai sermons. It is during these hours that at least I am thinking, "This just is not normal. This is creepy. This is sadistic" Then I found our earplugs!

I also have come to realize that if you just wake up at four, and start your day, then who cares what they're saying, since they keep the loudspeaker going all day long anyway. Communism is Good! Yeah, well, I don't get up till the sun's warm, so drag my lazy butt over to the bus if you want me to harvest your rice... We did, actually, manage to be ready for the bus by 5:30 (a late one just for the visitors!), and off we went for the forty minute drive over to a very large filed of rice paddy, ate a banana or two each and began to harvest, alongside our Asoke friends and others who were working the paddies. So here we go again, struggling with the idea of volunteering versus being taken advantage of as free migrant labor. Harvesting for the capitalist dogs might in fact be a dreadful experience, but this group is good fun.

To begin with, the monks are some of the only monks in Thailand who spend their days in the fields, with their community. Granted, they don't harvest, although one of them does, but they do work all day, either studying scripture, weaving thatch, or engaging in pleasant conversation with us lay harvesters. They eat only once a day, before noon, so it would be dangerous for them to cut rice all afternoon long. ... Ahhh! It's dinner time. Our group has easily and pleasantly escaped to the city for the weekend to quench our thirsts for material junk and global media hypnosis, and now we are going to try Thai-French cuisine at the Sincere Restaurant. I won't write in a week, and I have deliberately attempted to shock you with this dispatch, in good fun, because the experience has been amazing so far. Rest assured that Mona and I are still capitalist dogs and that we are also enjoying this immersion into radical Thai/Buddhist/vegan culture. I do think it would be good for everyone to spend time harvesting something for the dinner table.

Enjoy the news, vote for Nader in the Revote, and have a happy, healthy, hearty, and loving Thanksgiving! Tom

Date: Mon, 20 Nov 00 05:07AM EST 
life is pretty fine here, cold it isn't. hot it very much is, must be deadly around these parts in the summer. i'm back to wilting just after a shower. harvesting rice isn't very hard, though the sun bleaches the energy out of me. pretty intense human contact too. i'm finally learning a few (very few) words of thai and the asoke people aren't pushing quite as hard for us to reject the world and join them. in fact, nood, our most constant companion/guide (and the most fluent in english), recently said she was having trouble with her vows because she admired tom and my relationship.... love between man and woman is the most base in their buddhist-doctrine - transcend and all that.

yup, the smells are wild. awesome how they give an almost deju vu flash-backish feel. toes are fine. i've lost my bigtoe l toenail and will lose my r bigtoenail. the left new one is all lumpy and bumpy and funny looking. a physical souvenir of this trip..... oh, nope didn't really hurt at all. and i think my socks were way too think. the boots i've had awhile and never had any trouble, though nc's hills don't compare to nepal's. i won't miss the dogs in south asia, some tear my heart up. buddhist belief doesn't spare the strays any mercy. read a book called a recipe for bees. i think i'll start a hive even without much experience, i'm pretty excited about the whole idea. i've been missing knitting, sounds like the weather is just right for it now. maybe this winter i'll work my way into socks......

we're home soon, look forward to seeing you. happy thanksgiving, hope you have a nice holiday. love mona

Date: Thu, 23 Nov 00 02:52AM EST 
we're to be flying dec 14th. this thanksgiving finds us pulping passion fruits, scrubbing pots, and chopping veggies. the language quiz goes on. the folks are so kind. we're being vegan stuffed at the asoke restaurant. i'm into it, have learned some new cooking tricks. they're excited to teach, cooking transcends the language barrier.. oh, you know those green funky eggplants that you thought weren't cooked enough? every time we've run into them here they've been pretty crunchy. in fact there are these really small eggplants, raisin sized, that they always serve raw. it's 70 here. sweet! the indy airport is gonna be a shock!

happy thanks. mona

Date: Thu, 23 Nov 00 03:02AM EST 
good to hear from you. wondered what you were up to. let me know where you land. thanks, i always feel shy about mass emails. can't polish them much........ the carrot for me is keeping a bit of a travellog. i was good at the start and wrote a good bit in the journal, but lost momentum. getting responses from home is sweet too. hurrah, tomatoes. the vegan fare at this thai place is awesome! hope you're finding many kinds of thanks on this day! tom and i miss your balls of fuzz an awful lot. dog love rules.

love mona

Date: Thu, 23 Nov 00 03:29AM EST 
hope you are all finding bushels of happy thanks this day. other than the mass mails i've finally started. couldn't keep up when away from the tech world of bangkok. here is drawing to a close. and it has been so good- vietnam is our last track. and then home. i look forward to seeing you all--- maybe jan.? and it has been long enough traveling.

i'm ready for homing. cooking-- DRINKING COFFEE!!!--sewing---dog scratching-- speaking my own home language/love with friends and family. starting up a new garden. i hope you are all well! how is school? how is work? how goes learning to read? i thought of you all in nepal one day when a herd of 100 goat washed over a steep ridgeline as tom and i trudged our slow way up. snapped a photo, but hard tellin' if it will match the mind's eye pic. hope to talk to you all soon, back dec 14th. love and mushiness mona

(A Nice Reply From Mom) 
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 00 10:03AM EST
Subject: Re: Talking about Chairman Mao

Hi Tom & Mona - Happy Thanksgiving to you - finally have time to write back to you. We have had a snap of cold weater, the high 30s at night, and blankets have come out to cover some of my plants.

I know you two are having a great time and reading your e mail about being one with nature in spirit and veggies, reminds me so much of being in wartorn Germany, praying each evening to be safe for next day with Mom and Dad and then going to the communal gardens to make sure all plants are weeded, watered by hand with a cup and harvested so very carefully. The taste of those vegetables was so special, just because in good times taste and senses are not in full gear, as they were then. Don't laugh, to this day when I eat those very small potatoes or cabbage, I still smell the cook pot over the small fire, bringing up the aroma of veggie soup. It is amazing how food smells bring back most memories.

Well enough of the poor little girl stories. The rugs you sent are at my house. They never faxed me that they had arrived and Debi called on the status and found out that they were there.

Can't wait to see you both at Christmas.

May the spirit of adventure be with you and keep you safe from harm and injury.

Love Mom

Date: Mon, 27 Nov 00 19:47PM EST 
Tom here. I am checking email while Mona shops for chocolate and a book. We're in BKK airport, waiting to fly to Danang, Vietnam. Just as we start speaking the local linguy.

I hope it was a great time, and that you are enjoying the cool weather and the autumn skies. I also hope things are going well at work, and that life in general is pleasant. We're about to embark on yet another adventure!

See you soon, Tom

Date: Tue, 28 Nov 00 01:04AM EST 
Subject: Talking about Ho Chi Minh

We survived Buddhism with open eyes! Actually we had a wonderful time, working alongside selfless, cheerful, generous people, and look forward to spending time with them again! We even visited the Santi Asoke commune in Bangkok, where we were able to witness Samanaa Bhodirak, the leader, preach before lunch, and talk with the anthropologist from Finland who wrote an excellent study of the Asoke movement. We made a ton of tofu last week, a tanker full of passion fruit juice, and we washed many dishes, but more on that later. We're in the airport, about to fly to Danang, Vietnam. Time for a no-so-enlightened communist experience? We'll see, and let you know how it goes!


Date: Wed, 29 Nov 00 05:10AM EST 
So, does that make one or two cards? I suspect one. another is on the way, although it is also for the whole firehouse gang... Bummer weather? It's been warm and cool, very pleasant, little rain. Standard winter here, I presume. We're now going to spend more time near the sea, so maybe more showers, mosquitoes, and annoying touts.

The people here are colorful and bright. The flowers often bloom at night. REM

We see all kinds of flowers that we are not able to label. We need a flowers book, a birds book, reptiles, fish, ethnic groups... not to mention a guidebook to noodle dishes. Glad to keep the homefolks entertained. I tried once to tune in wfhb, but no audio. Hang in there, it's almost winter!!

Happy zoning, Tom