Letter 3 from Eric Arnow Arnow Letter Index
Eric Arnow has his own web site now. For years I've been putting his letters from Asia here. From now on they'll go on his site, the Bumble Buddhist which also now has all the previous ones from cuke and photos more. - dc
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004
02:13:00 -0800 (PST)
I am still in Pei, since I got this persistent cold so that I finally went to a doctor.
At the doctor's office, the nurse checked my blood pressure, a healthy 120/70.
The doctor did the usual check of vital signs and breathing and confirmed that I had bronchitis and sinusitis, and recommended Cipro and an anti histamine--the same treatment I had this time last year. Last year, I went with my Blue Shield Insurance, which, with its high deductible, didn't cover the visit or the prescription. My Marin County MD was kind and only charged me $50 for the visit. The medicines--I shopped around for them--cost about $50 for the Cipro and $25 for the antihistamine. So total cost was about $120.
Not counting the time I took looking for the medicine.
The Thai doctor's office gave me the appropriate prescription. I was in and out of his office (there was a decent size line that took about 20 minutes to process) in about 10 minutes.
Total cost 350. That's not dollars that is Thai baht--about $7.50
$7.50 for healthcare that vs. in the US WITH insurance costs $120. Pissed yet??
Why do the American people put up with this year after year, decade after decade. And poor Thailand just instituted a national health card so that everyone gets basic care guaranteed.
On to Pei.
Pei is a very unusual town even for Thailand. Far away from the cities, it is surrounded by generally green mountains less than 6000 feet, but with a touch of color in this winter season.
There are easy to spot Muslim women in their burkhas, and Muslim men dressed in White.
I stopped in at "Muslim Homemade" a little bakery and got some cocoa covered peanuts for a snack last night and chatted with a burkha clad woman.
One of the neat things about Pei is that you can hear the Muezzin calling people to prayer 5 times a day. I hope to stop in at the mosque for a visit, since I have never visited a mosque before. The Muslim man smiled sweetly at me as we exchanged money and the snack.
Later on, I heard a guitar playing at a local club. I suspended judgment of the cigarette smoke and went in to see a middle aged Britisher singing Bob Dylan, Eagles, Rolling Stones on his guitar. A European played bass and a Thai volunteered on guitar accompaniment.
The music quality was admittedly somewhat amateurish, but the songs of the good (bad?) old days of the 60's was great. I then started talking with a guy who had been an accountant in Canada, but gave that up for an organic farm in Britsh Columbia years ago.
He is my age and noted that a lot of old guys like myself are coming to Thailand, having finally overcome years of denial about the reality and coming here to in his words "chill out".
He said he visited China and lots of younger Americans are teaching English, but with crosses around their necks doing their Christian duty to teach English to the benighted Chinese.
He also noted the enormous debt the US owes China, and sees no way that the world has a choice but to keep buying dollars to keep their chief customer afloat. But I maintain that at a certain point, --even the IMF says that the US debt is well beyond that of delinquent Third world economies.--it will truly become unsustainable.
There are strong indications that other countries are in the process of hedging their bets and heading for the dollar escape door. So hold onto you hats for when China and the rest finally say, "enough!!" and pull the plug.
He predicts (predictions are worth as much as the paper they are printed on) a big drop in the stock market in 2005, starting with when the lousy Christians sales are in. But who knows?
Today, I was walking along the street past a little shop that advertises "jungle survival skills". Out of the shop--not really a shop but a stall on the one lane street--wafted Bob Dylan singing, "Don't think Twice It's Alright." Needless to say, I was hooked and dropped in.
A nice 30ish guy greeted me and invited me to sit down for a cup of tea. He was playing the Best of Bob Dylan, starting with "Blowin' in the Wind". As it started playing, I broke down into tears. The pain of that song, after all these years.........."How many deaths will it take til he knows...that too many people have died" was too much. What will it take for the USA to become a peaceful country and pull its soldiers out of the world, stop bombing people in the name of saving them?
Well it turns out he is a Karen'--an ethnic group that migrated to Burma and then his family left to seek refuge in Thailand. They often wear colorful clothes of their hill tribe. He and his family do not. He is Christian. converted no doubt by his English teacher.
I told him practically in tears that if Jesus were alive today, the government would probably kill him. Prince of Peace?....he must be an appeaser of the evildoers.
After my cup of tea and a promise to go on one of his treks, I found myself in front of a cafe offering "Budget Breakfast--4 slices of whole wheat toast butter jam, two eggs and unlimited tea/coffee" for 50 baht, about $1.25
So I am sitting down and notice some unusual photos, pictures of people getting beat up
(at the internet cafe I am at writing this, Santana just came on--Black Magic Woman)
I ask what are the pictures about? During the 70's there was a democracy movement that the government suppressed. Eventually it granted amnesty to the students who went to join guerillas in the jungles (maybe even near here). Since then there has been a democracy in Thailand, sort of, like the USA. Huge gaps between most people who work 7 days a week for very little pay.
A couple of days ago I ran into some young 20ish people from "good jobs" in Bangkok. They said they studied about 12 hours a day for years to get their high paying jobs with companies like GE Capital.
Back to my new friend at the Cafe. She also had a university degree, but came back to live near her Mom. Bangkok is "too noise...polluted,etc." She has come back to live in the mountains where she can be free. I told her she reminds me a lot of the way I was when I was, like her, 22 years old.
Nietzsche I think once said that if you want to be free , you go to the mountains.
Her shop sold books like "Catcher in the Rye".
Pei reminds me of an outpost of the Federation, where people go to be free of the Empire, to use the Star Wars analogy. Where Buddhists, like her, Christians, like the Karen, and Muslims like the sweet baker, all live happily together unbothered by the bullshit of the outside world. A small haven indeed.
Tomorrow, I will go with her to visit her mother who has land for sale or long term lease.
It costs 2000-3000 baht a month for a lease on land. That's $75 a month. Would I plant trees?
You bet, I said, noting that I had strawberries, a delicacy here as in the USA, and other trees in Santa Rosa. A three bedroom two bath house would be expensive to build, though.
About 500,000 she estimated. That is baht. In dollars, $12,500.
My guess is that a pleasant house on an acre here in the mountains, as those young Thais from Bangkok save money, in ten years will be very valuable.
It's like buying a house in Mill Valley for $20,000 in 1960.
Tonight I will probably go back to that little club and maybe read my emails as a sort of performance piece, and maybe lead a few songs like I wrote about the other day.
Oh one last thought. How about getting out that dusty old guitar, and with a few friends, go singing songs in the streets. In the meantime, I will be in a retreat on "inauguration" day but my thoughts will be with you. All the Buddhas, Saints and Angels will be too, no doubt.
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