Latest Posts

My most recent work

Over the past year or so I’ve had the good fortune to work with a number of news outlets. Each has been different, and have helped me grow as a reporter. I’ve put links to the work below, along with a brief description of what the piece is about.

For additional clips, please don’t hesitate to email me at peregrinefrissell@gmail.com.

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Colin Donihue, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard and Max Lambert, a PhD candidate at Yale, caught this Italian Wall Lizard in a back yard abutting the Metro North railroad tracks in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, Conn. The colder weather doesn’t seem to phase the 4-inch lizards that find warmth from a variety of man-mad sources. Photo from Hearst Connecticut media/ Tyler Sizemore

 

I wrote a piece for Greenwich Time, my current employer, about non-native Italian Wall Lizards using the Metro North train line to travel north from the Bronx, where they escaped from captivity decades ago and have been living since.

It’s a classic tale of climate change and species adaptation leading to a changing ecosystem for a species that is now being spotted farther north than many populations in Europe. The piece ran in my newspaper and was picked up by other papers throughout Fairfield County, along with SFGate, the Washington Times and the Portland Press Herald in Maine. My reporting on the issue was referenced in the New York Times.

Here is the link to my work: http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Scientists-track-reptiles-migration-from-New-9187493.php

I also went with the researchers when they were searching for lizards, and used Facebook Live to share it. You can view the video here: https://www.facebook.com/greenwichtime/videos/10153871565233181/?hc_ref=SEARCH

 

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Darrin Old Coyote, center, sits on a panel at the Montana Energy Conference on March 31, 2016 at the Radisson Hotel in Billings. Old Coyote spoke about the big opportunities that coal provides for the Crow reservation. Photo Credit:Freddy Monares/ Native News Project

Last spring I spent a week in Crow Agency and the surrounding communities reporting on how the vast reserves of coal that sits under the reservation stagnates local politics. I was on assignment for the Native News Project, a publication put out by the University of Montana School of Journalism that covers a major story on each reservation in Montana annually.

Here is the link to my story: http://nativenews.jour.umt.edu/2016/mining-for-votes-crow/

 

Below are links to a few of my best stories from my stint with the Nepali Times in Kathmandu last summer writing about the earthquake recovery effort.

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Women line up for a medical care at a clinic just outside the Kathmandu Valley. Photo by Peregrine Frissell/ Nepali Times

I accompanied an organization putting on a medical clinic to a community outside the Kathmandu Valley and wrote about the transition from acute (immediate, urgent open wounds or broken bones) to chronic injuries in the month following the quake, and the problems that posed for those working to provide medical care. Here is the piece: http://nepalitimes.com/article/nation/caring-in-kavre,2446

 

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Khikuman Moktan and his son, Dilba, stand in front of their quake-damaged home, now being used only for storage. Photo by Peregrine Frissell/ Nepali Times

After the earthquake, the government struggled to distribute ID cards and aid fast enough to protect citizens living in rural areas before monsoon season set in. The difficulties are understandable when you consider that Nepal’s rural area, consisting largely of the Himalayan foothills, is among the most difficult to access in the world. NGOs jumped in to help the situation, and I accompanied one to write about that race against time, and the rains that were already beginning to come. Here is the story: http://nepalitimes.com/article/Nepali-Times-Buzz/road-to-rasuwa-quickly-worsening-in-monsoon-season,2367 

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Art by Austin Hofschield/ Montana Journalism Review

I investigated a Montana newspaper apparently implementing a policy of censoring online comments to protect advertisers. The newspaper has since stopped allowing comments on their site altogether.

Here is the story: http://mjr.jour.umt.edu/online-comments-advertisers/

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Art by Evan Frost/ Montana Kaimin

I uncovered an instance of the University of Montana athletic department misreporting the academic achievement of student-athletes and a host of NCAA recruiting violations in this investigation, then put that story in context with the way universities interact with the NCAA and the communities they call home.

The piece won 5th in the national Hearst Sports Writing Competition.

Here is the story: http://www.montanakaimin.com/news/unsportsmanlike-conduct-from-ncaa-regs-to-local-laws-um-athletics/article_d72e03f0-817f-11e5-8fbd-cfa61559e5ac.html

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My farewell to the Nepali Times

My time here in Nepal has come to a close, and I know that when I picked up writing for the paper I became much worse about updating my blog. I’m leaving the country early tomorrow morning on a plane bound through Istanbul and then on to New York City. Despite the wonderful time I had here, I am certainly ready to head back to the wonderful place I am fortunate enough to call home.

My last assignment for the paper was to write a short blog post about my experiences here. It ought to be published on the Nepali Times website before too long, but I thought it might be a nice thing to throw up here as well:

Thank you Nepal

Working with the Nepali Times these last couple months has been a privilege and an honor.

Like many international travelers, I had made my plans to come to Nepal well in advance of the quake. After the 25th of April I received a lot of discouragement from many folks around me who knew of my plans. Stuck in the pall of assumption and misinformation, they encouraged me to stay home where they presumed it was safer. They thought I was trying to be the hero, swooping in after the disaster to lend my infinite wisdom and guidance as a 20-year-old college student. Everyone claimed to know that the last thing Nepal needed was for me to go.

I wasn’t alone in that situation, and the result is too many people didn’t come. That defeatist attitude continues to sap the Nepalis it is intended to protect. The economy of Nepal and the livelihoods of countless individuals I’ve spoken to over the past eight weeks rely on tourists and those tourists are missing out on a hell of an experience when they cancel their plans here. Nepal doesn’t need my infinite wisdom or my guidance. It needs people to come and witness its majesty, serenity, and resolve in the face of a rebuilding process many in the West can’t even contemplate.

Everything is being rebuilt, not just buildings. Politicians are rebuilding their reputations as well as the countries potential. Writers and journalists are rebuilding the national image. But it’s the ordinary, working citizens that present a tenacity that’s inspiring to me. The women dressed in beautiful traditional clothing and the men in flip-flops and shorts tossing bricks from a monstrous pile to the back of a waiting truck. The children helping to cook under tents in the middle of a chaotic city and gather food in the high mountains of Rasuwa.

I don’t think that my journalism will leave an indelible impact on many people here in Nepal. However I do think that if I had been able to read the words I have written in the last two months I would have been much more confident in my decision to come. That is worth a lot, and I feel proud to have been able to write words that carry potential for a real impact.

That message isn’t breaking news to anyone here, but it’s the beginning of a piece of the long-term transition back to normalcy. Nepalis are proud of their country, and I have never disagreed with them for one second. As I move on in my education and career, I’ll never stop encouraging others to come too. And of course, the adage has proved true: visiting Nepal once is never enough.

Until next time,

Peregrine B. Frissell

(Also published for the Nepali Times)

Peregrine Frissell

Three day trek in the Annapurna circuit

This week I got to go on a three day trek in the Annapurna circuit. The trip was sponsored by the Trekking Agency Association of Nepal, and brought along a handful of journalists along with around 30 owners of trekking agencies to showcase the state of the trails and infrastructure in the Annapurna range.

The area is in excellent condition, with extremely minimal damage from the earthquake on the 25th of April. What most of the nice folks who own guesthouses and trekking agencies and depend on guiding and trekkers for their livelihood need is not aid supplies, but tourists. So, if you think maybe you want to go on vacation soon but haven’t decided where, this would be one hell of an option. One owner of a local restaurant in the lakeside city of Pokhara told me that each tourist that visits Nepal provides work for at least ten Nepalis, from trekking guides to taxi drivers and waiters and guesthouse owners.

The trek was gorgeous, and I would advise recommend going to anyone. Unlike backpacking in Montana, when you trek here you don’t have to pack along a tent and food if you don’t want to. Every hour or so along the trail you will encounter a small village, which usually has a few guesthouses where you can stay for the night, take your meal, or enjoy a cup of tea while you dry your clothes out over the fireplace. Even during the rainy season, it is an extremely comfortable way to travel. You can take advantage of all those things for around 1,000 Nepali Rupees, or $10 a day.

I made some great friends, and realized further yet how damning the image painted of Nepal by the international media after the earthquake has really been.

I hope all is well back home. It was nice to be back among some large mountains, and makes me look forward to some backpacking once I return home.

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Full swing in Kathmandu

When I landed in Kathmandu I was greeted not with a city of tents where all but a few buildings had been reduced to rubble, as one may have expected after reading the international media coverage. Instead over the first several days here I experienced a nation far more genuine and well preserved (culturally if not structurally) than my last temporary home in Bangkok.

Kathmandu, my home for the next two months and the city where I’ll be performing the bulk of my internship for the Nepali Times, was not ravaged nearly as badly as many parts of the country. Eighty percent of the buildings in the city were not damaged, and much of the rubble has been cleared away in the six weeks since the first earthquake. Food shops are open, vegetable stands are up, and children run and play in the streets.

Here is my first reported piece published by the Nepali Times: http://nepalitimes.com/page/tourists-trickle-back-to-Bhaktapur

Not to say that all is well, either. I am slowly piecing together an image of what Kathmandu was like before the quake from my colleagues at the newspaper and other people I talk to when writing stories and exploring the city. These days it is difficult to find any restaurant open past 7:30 pm, and by 9:00 most of the city appears to be asleep. My sleep schedule has adjusted rather well, mostly because a day of walking about this hectic city is truly tiring.

I thought walking the streets of Bangkok was a crazy experience, but Kathmandu presents a challenge more akin to backpacking rough trails than walking through any city streets I have ever seen before. I’ve found myself slipping into all the old habits that summers on the trail in Montana bring out. I have to spend an unfortunate amount of time looking at my feet because of the busy array of steps and sidewalks and pavement with potholes giving way to dirt roads. Cows lie in the streets because their owners abandon them there rather than killing them because that is forbidden in this Hindu state. All the taxis are small Japanese-made Suzuki cars that seem specially chosen to zip in and out of the traffic that only loosely pays attention to which lane has been designated for the direction they are traveling. That traffic no longer includes the tuk tuks that I grew used to in Southeast Asia, but has bicycles, motor bikes, cars of all sizes, buses, trucks, rickshaws, and people crossing the streets at odd spots all over the city for lack of a better option to get to where they need to go.

There is a tradition of enjoying tea with others throughout the day here that reminds me of England, though they don’t make the same emphasis on presentation. In the newsroom everyone works at their computers and telephones for most of the day, and a kind man from the next office over comes in at around 11:00 am and 3:00 pm with a tray full of cups of tea. It is a sort of sour concoction sweetened with sugar that comes hot in a small clear water glass. It’s delicious, and at many local-owned restaurants and coffee shops you can get a cup for only ten Nepali rupees, or about ten cents.

The most conspicuous difference between what Kathmandu is like now and what it was like before the quake lies in the tourist sector. The city that most foreigners refer to as Kathmandu is actually divided into three separate cities. The city that I live in is Lalitpur (the other two are Bhaktapur and Kathmandu proper), and within that city my neighborhood is Jawalakhel. That neighborhood is typically popular with tourists, but the numbers have shrunk dramatically since the quake. The internet is teeming with stories written by folks who were here when the quake happened recounting their experiences, only to leave as quickly as they could get to the airport (which despite some reporting, was not so seriously damaged that many foreigners couldn’t leave the country within a day).

The neighborhoods here are absent all those people, and it has had an effect arguably more conspicuous than that of the quake in many neighborhoods. I’m told that before the quake many of the restaurants stayed open until one or two in the morning, and now it is difficult to find food after 7:30 pm. The place looks like a ghost town by nine.

Many cafes are not stocking fruits and vegetables because there is not enough business to ensure that the food can be sold before it goes bad. Many others are not opening at all. The other day we sat down at a small restaurant in a garden just off one of the main roads in Jawalakhel. We were handed a menu, but when I pointed at a vegetable curry the owner said they could not make that. He then asked if we wanted Mo Mo (a popular dish here that is a lot like dumplings, or pot stickers) or French fries, as if anything else was unavailable even though it was the middle of the day.

There are still ample local vegetable and fruit stands open and selling, and many of the busier restaurants that do manage to stay busy with some mix of locals and relief workers still serve their full menus. Old women cook corn on the cob over small charcoal barbeques that they haul up and down the streets. We tried some the other night, and despite being in desperate need of salt, butter, and maybe a little hot sauce, it was rather nice. She re-warms it by putting it right on the embers when you order it, and then wraps it in a used spare bit of note paper that looks like it used to be a daily schedule, back when the normalcy and demand were present to necessitate schedules.

The message being trumpeted here loudly to anyone I approach as a reporter and a foreigner is this: the country needs the tourists back. The city is full of perfectly safe and undamaged hotels and guesthouses, small and owned by hospitable locals, who depended upon those tourists for their livelihoods. In the aftermath of their exodus the government has done little aside from twiddle their political thumbs to alleviate the burden of those in stress, and financial support has been far longer coming to these people than it should have been.

They are not asking for houses from the government or even money to pay rent for a roof over their heads, they are simply asking for enough to buy corrugated aluminum sheets to build the kind of shelter that would never be considered adequate in the West.

The race is on too, because monsoon season is only a matter of days away. If I have learned one thing about Nepali people since I have gotten here, it is that they would have made President Hoover proud. Their resilience and thriftiness and determination to help themselves is truly inspiring, and that is obviously the most major factor in this city looking as good as it does a mere two months after the quake. That resilience may well falter, however, when the countryside becomes inaccessible and the aid it has waited too long for is cut off for the rainy season. Many of the roads here are not good at all, and even before the rains are very difficult to navigate. People seem to expect the monsoon around mid to late June this year, and once that comes many of them will become impassable. I’ve been told that generally the countryside communities take the weeks and months before the monsoon comes to stock up on whatever supplies they cannot grow and gather themselves. Obviously this has not been able to happen this year, and those outside Kathmandu are in more need of supplies than ever. The monsoon rains always hit India first, then move up the subcontinent and arrive in Nepal after that. As a result, Nepalis usually get a fair warning about precisely when the rains will hit. In the paper just yesterday said that they expected the rains to hit southern Nepal within four days, and it will not take long to move up and over the entire country, because Nepal is no more than several kilometers long from north to south.

Understandably the Nepali media has been distracted with the imminent arrival of the rains, but Indian media has moved forward to report the fact that the monsoon is expected to be 12 percent shorter in duration than the long-term average. That is stoking fears of drought and a sign that the salvation brought by the sun at the end of rainy season will be fleeting at best. In short, international aid of a long and enduring nature is certainly needed. There are still many aid packages stacking up in a warehouse at the airport outside Kathmandu for the inept customs agency to process before they can get to those who need them most, but that is another indicator that a bulge of immediate relief tapering off to international negligence is not the recipe for a healthy rehabilitation.

I feel like I have learned a few things about Nepali people since I have arrived, but I’m trying to keep an open mind too. It’s a very male-dominated society, and there are semi-strict rules around the way women dress in public. No shorts that end above the knee are allowed, and you do not often see shirts that allow for bare shoulders unless the dress is traditional either. Interestingly enough, many of the traditional clothes around leave the entire midriff bare and something that would seem revealing in the West is rather normal here. Men can wear whatever they want, though I don’t seem them wandering around shirtless like I did in Thailand on a regular basis. Nepali people are also rather somber. In Thailand a smile on the street was very often returned at least with a nod, it seemed to me as much as 75% of the time (a proportion topped only in Montana). Here it happens, but to a far lesser degree. These people have every reason to be somber, but it appears that the resilience they are so good at employing does not lend itself to a go-lucky attitude.

The first few days of my internship at the Nepali Times have gone as well as could be expected so far. I think I’ve experienced at least my fair share of reasons for optimism, but I’ve also had my fair share of story pitches shot down. Translated, that means they have all been shut down except one, which was given to another reporter. The process has been worthwhile though, and I’ve been supplied with reasons that will allow me to become wiser about the ideas I pitch and probably a bit more confident in my desperation to have one taken. It seems to be a nice group of folks in the newsroom, and I’m excited to do something worthwhile enough to seem like a competent fellow. They are all Nepali, except the young Mauritian man who has the culture beat. My editor, Kunda Dixit, is a man who seems to be kind and brilliant and extraordinarily busy. Probably on the whole an excellent disposition for an editor, but also not one that lends itself to struggling young interns. He’s frequently quoted in many national media outlets as a smart figure, and he seems like a decent man too.

Yesterday I met with an Italian aid organization and I will be leaving this Friday morning to accompany them on a trip to Rasuwa district, about 100 kilometers north of Kathmandu. They will be distributing CGIC, or corrugated iron sheets, to locals whose homes were damaged in the quake. Though Rasuwa was not the hardest hit from the quake (it is somewhere around 50 kilometers northwest of the epicenter), it was badly affected. We will be going to two different villages, Saramthali and Yarsa, to distribute the sheets. As part of my work for the newspaper I will also venture out to other villages in the vicinity to assess the damage there, and try and find out what the villagers who do not receive aid will do. It is slated to be a four-day trip, with a day of commute on each side sandwiching two days of distributing the CGIC. In order to get their allocation of materials, the locals have to provide some form of government issues identification. This has also been a major news peg since the quake, as the already shoddy job the government had done to ensure all citizens had an ID was enhanced by the fact that many of the people who most needed aid lost their ID when their homes collapsed. It will be interesting to watch the process, and see how this aid organization uses the money and materials provided to them to have the best possible impact.

Lang Tang National Park, a popular tourist destination, lies on the northern end of the district just beneath the Tibetan border. It’s a trekking mecca for foreigners, but after the landslides that happened as a result of the earthquake many of the villages in and around the park were wiped out. The trekking industry depended on these villages because they operated the teahouses where trekkers would stay at night and oftentimes take their meals as well. I spoke to some Sherpa when reporting a story about the trekking industry just yesterday, and one of them said he had ventured up there last week. He mentioned that the people, as elsewhere in Nepal, are resilient and resourceful. They also depend on the trekkers as a major source of income, so whether it is healthy or not those teahouses will be among the first things that are rebuilt. He expected the area to be open to trekkers again by as early as next season, though that is far from a guarantee.

My, what a nice temple.

This is a temple that I saw when I visited Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park around a month ago.

In order to get there a friend and I took a mini-bus from Bangkok south to the town of Hua Hin, which is about three hours away and on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Hua Hin is a very tourist-oriented town, with many bars and resorts and department stores. They also have lots of places to rent motor bikes, and that’s what we did.

In Thailand you can rent a motor bike for about 200 baht, or just over six US dollars a day. You don’t even have to have a license. Incidentally, motor bike accidents are very common in Thailand. You also have to put a 60 dollar deposit down, but as long as you don’t scratch or break the bike at all and return it on time then they give it back to you later. Hopefully. We got our deposits back, which was nice. They also give us a free helmet. We filled the bikes with gas on our way out of town, which cost approximately four US dollars each, and that was the only time I filled mine for the whole trip.

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This temple, and the rest of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, was about a two hour ride further south of Hua Hin. The park was beautiful, famous for it’s caves, beaches, and beautiful forests. We were visited at our camp sites each night by monkeys and the tide.

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Here is a picture of our campsite. The first evening there we went swimming, after which we spent a couple hours getting very worried and trying to find fresh water to wash off with because our legs got very itchy. We figured it was because we had been stung by jelly fish.

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Here are some monkeys we saw by the side of the road while out and about exploring on our motor bikes near one edge of the park. If you look closely, you can see a cute baby one.

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This is a picture that was taken from inside the same cave as the large photo at the top of this post. We had to hike two kilometers up the side of a mountain to get to the entrance of the gave, then several hundred meters down into the cave to get to this point. It is a section of the wall to the right of that structure in the top picture that is famous because it was signed by several past kings. This is a picture of those signatures. Slightly underwhelming, perhaps, but there were so many nice-looking Asian tourists taking pictures of it that we felt that maybe we should too.

#TBT to the first time I went grocery shopping alone in Thailand

This is was the result of my first attempt at grocery shopping for myself in the great nation of Thailand. I think it was my second day here.

The prospect of going into a new grocery store and seeing all the awesome stuff that I had never even previously contemplated existing was exciting, but then after about 12 minutes I got all stressed out because it was super crowded I just checked out right there.

I think I covered the most important bases though.

My diet over consists of several core food groups, namely rice, fruit, beer, cucumbers, stir-fry/curry, and tea. It’s a good life really, and rather cheap too.

That being said, I do frequently and passionately miss the home cooking of my wonderful parents and sister. Aubrey and I help sometimes too, but they deserve most of the credit. I hope you guys are doing well!

Long Live the King

This is a picture of the King that hangs above the entrance to my classroom on the second floor of the political science building at Thammasat University. There is another one inside, and one of his wife the Queen as well.

Images of the King are numerous across the country. As soon as one leaves the parking lot at the large airport outside of town that services most international flights they pass under a large overpass with a huge picture of him that is lit at night, greeting you before anything else can.

Every Thai household has numerous pictures of him. They seem to be most common near the entry ways, but in most houses I have been in they have one in almost every room, oftentimes hanging on the wall amongst the family portraits, or sometimes just above the family portraits in a row of his own.

Many cab drivers keep images of him somewhere on the dashboard, and restaurants all have them hanging around the seating area.

There will be huge structures that look like monuments in the median of the road throughout the city, and when you pass particularly big ones in a taxi the driver will look at it and take his hands off the steering wheel to press them together and give a slight bow as we drive by. The same happens on a bus. You can look around and see about half the people on the bus do the exact same thing.

Every day at 6:00 p.m., if you are near a large public space, the national anthem is blared over loudspeakers. If you happen to be near a TV then you will notice all the normal programming cut out and head straight to the national anthem on the hour as well. The screens play a series of photographs of the King, interspersed with patriotic clips that often portray military might, like jets flying through the sky.

I’m told it’s irrelevant to religion, and a Thai person would revere the King where he was Buddhist, Muslim, or any other religion. The vast majority of Thai people that I am around every day are Buddhist, but I will look forward to examining that more closely when I head North in a couple weeks where there is more religious diversity.

Here is a clip of what shows on TV with the audio of the anthem as well, so you can experience it for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBDKah2nnvw

And, since words aren’t coming easy, this is largely the feeling it evokes in me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1N77NaxlGlU (definitely the “We’re not in Kansas anymore than the Good witch/Bad witch commentary. No veiled political statements here, only appreciation at a culture that is far different than my own!).

This is where I eat breakfast most days

There is a woman down the street who cooks me breakfast about every morning now. At the beginning of my time here I would go to her maybe three times a week, but now my day simply doesn’t seem right if it doesn’t begin sitting in her yard on her little plastic stools at a card table, greeted by her smile.

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I immediately resolved to make this woman my friend.

The first time I walked into her stand, my third day in Thailand, she had a large banner with four pictures of food in a vertical arrangement hanging near her oven. I pointed at the image on top, and she laughed, smiled, and cooked it for me.

The next time I went to her, two days later, I pointed to the next one down, and she did the exact same thing. It was so delicious that despite my best intentions of trying everything on the menu, I’ve had that every single time I have been there since. It’s a plate of white rice, with a pork sausage stir-fry with green beans and basil in it, accompanied with one egg. The stir-fry and the egg, cooked over easy, are stacked on top of the bowl of rice. It’s amazing.

This is one of those places where the woman would cook you anything you asked her to, you just have to know how to say it in Thai. That limits me to rice, chicken, vegetables, sweet milky coffee, and pad Thai. I spend a decent amount of time pointing at pictures, unfortunate as it is.

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After a couple of days of me pointing to the same picture, she taught me how to say it by holding it up before she handed it to me and repeating the name until I repeated it back to her, finally realizing she was telling me the name of the dish (this woman is incredibly sweet, with one of those smiles that make you feel like she’s a proud aunt). I understood the name of the dish to be “Kao Moo Sam,” phonetically spelled, but I suspect that rather than actually using the correct Thai name she just knows what I want when I say that even though it’s not totally correct. It’s like a language that I don’t share with the larger Thai national community, but rather a far more personal language between just her and I. At least that’s what I tell myself in my head to justify my seriously inept language skills. It’s for the sake of something special.

A few days after that, she made a coffee for another customer and held it up to teach me the name of that, then offered me one. It was also delicious, far better than many of the places around here that put way too much cream in it. My plan for friendship was slowly progressing.

It’s now gotten to the point where I don’t even have to tell her what I want. I walk in, wave at her and smile at her husband and nod, sit down at a table and crack open my book and within about ten minutes they put the piping hot meal and iced coffee in front of me. It’s beautiful, sweet, and it makes me feel like I matter to someone. It’s a special thing, and something that I have grown to appreciate far more in my time here when it doesn’t envelop me about everywhere I go.  I resolve to read at least a chapter there every day over the course of breakfast, and then before I leave I pay them my 60 baht (about $2) and go about my day well nourished and feeling like I matter to someone. I would pay far more than 60 baht for what I get there.

The woman has a little cart that she pushed out onto the sidewalk where she will cook and serve people food to go, but you can also walk into her sort of walled front yard and sit at one of about four tables she usually has set up inside too. Her husband, a kind-faced and hard working older gentleman, also helps her. He doubtlessly is the best cook of the Kao Moo Sam. He always leaves the green beans crunchy and the basil tasty. Though they rotate who cooks it depending on who is nearest the stove, he is the one I always hope for. She makes the best coffee. On occasion there is a third member as well, a woman who appears about the same age as the first one. She’s nice too, I suppose. They look to be around forty to my eyes. They have a timid looking old yellow dog that comes out and makes the rounds every once in a while. He has the sort of rough, nit picked fur and misshapen stomach that accompanies a tired gait that you suspect would get a dog put down in the US. By Thai standards he appears well cared for.

When I go to the gym at the hospital on the other side of the canal from my apartment I have to walk right by their stand (they open by around 6:30 a.m. and seem to close by around 3:30 p.m.). I like to buy fruit on my way home from the gym. Though she doesn’t seem to know any English, she always points at the large bag of bananas or the lone pineapple I may be toting and smiles and laughs in a sort of way that makes it look like she’s proud of me. It warms my heart more than I have the ability to express in words at this point in my life. Sometimes I don’t even need any fruit, but I buy some just so I can see her look of approval as I walk by in sweat-soaked workout garb. Bless her heart.

#TBT to that day that I visited the Bridge over the River Kwai

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday and also of my procrastination, here is a picture of me at the storied Bridge over the River Kwai. It may sound familiar because there is a famous WWII film about it. The film was actually filmed in Sri Lanka, but maybe that’s just because the one in Thailand is actually rather beautiful, which is aesthetically counter to it’s violent past.

During WWII, the Japanese who controlled the area used the railway to bring in prisoners of many different ethnic groups and nationalities all to work together on construction of this bridge. There were British prisoners working alongside Burmese and other laborers from all over Asia. The construction is notorious because while it took only a year, the difficult terrain and disease-laden swampy landscape led it to claim thousands of worker lives.

I found that, like many things in Thailand, it is today surrounded by food carts, restaurants, and several small resorts and hotels. The bridge itself has rail tracks that are maintained, but when I was there the bridge was full of pedestrians and could also be walked across. The river was beautiful and serene. There was a large Chinese temple off to one side of the bridge on the bank too.

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Autthaya, ho!

Last weekend brought me on several cool adventures, and I thought I would share the most photogenic here.

On Sunday I took a trip up to the old capitol, Ayutthaya. The city lies just north of Bangkok, about two hours by the slow third class train. The trip costs 20 baht (about $0.70) each way, and is oftentimes filled to standing capacity with Thai people commuting to the city for work and tourists headed to and from the historic destination. Here is a picture of the inside of the train the day that I went:

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Autthaya has grown and remains relevant and is today a moderately-sized city with many modern buildings and permanent residents. The remnants of the old city, which you can see in my pictures below, are scattered throughout the new city. To give you a good idea of the distance, the best way to get around would definitely have been by bicycle. Due to my exceptional planning discipline, I did a lot of walking that day.

The city was founded circa 1350, and some historians estimate that it had as many as a million residents in the year 1700. This would make it one of the largest cities at the time, home to the mighty Siamese empire. The architecture leftover from those times long past are as grand as could be expected. Most of the structures I visited and have pictured here were built in the 1500’s. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:

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These bricks are, I’m sure, leftover from when the Siamese peasant workers finished the job 500 years ago:

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And this is how far the state has come since. What a truly great day to be a Grizzly.

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