Flower Power in Thailand. A Brief Memory of an ESL Teacher.



Several years into my ESL teaching career in Thailand I found myself at a school in the Klong Toey district of Bangkok.  This is a noisome slum area that breeds disease, despair, and plenty of good old fashioned juvenile delinquency.  It is a place where startling mansions and emporiums nestle cheek by jowl with the most wretched dwellings anywhere on earth.  A textbook example of what Karl Marx would call the inequality of capitalism.  Everyone hustled 24/7 to get out of that cesspool – some of them honestly, most of them not.  The children there had to grow up fast.

My school was fairly modern and the kids, dressed in their cute frocks and blue slacks, looked as innocent as goslings.

At 16 years of age, they were anything but.

The teacher before me was a former prison guard from Australia.  He lasted just 3 weeks before he was defenestrated.

This was not a class I was looking forward to teaching, but the wallet was thinning fast and the school had a reputation of paying salaries punctually.  So I took a chance.

The first day of class was a debacle.  The girls huddled in one corner, gossiping and experimenting with makeup, while the boys lounged near the windows, giving me the once-over to see how much effort it might take to jettison me into the courtyard.  Luckily I was fairly heavy, even for a farang, so the boys did not immediately decide to hoist me over the windowsill.

No one paid me the slightest attention, and my lesson went nowhere.  When the bell rang the 16-year olds trooped sullenly out, not even bothering to bow or offer me the obligatory wai.

I do not claim to be an Albert Schweitzer or educational genius, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I needed to keep that job till something better turned up, so after school, as I was riding the asthmatic bus back to my apartment, I hit on a plan.

There was a sprawling greenhouse next to my place.  I bought a dozen of the cheapest potted plants I could find, and when I told the old lady who ran the place that the plants were for my classroom, she tossed in 6 more, gratis.  They were weedy, sorry-looking things, and I had no idea what they were.  But I took them all to school with me the next day.

When my girl students saw the plants on my desk they immediately became interested.

I told the girls – while the boys continued to pretend to be totally uninterested over by the windows – that I had to give them an English lesson each day, and that if they would help me through it by at least staying awake, we could spend time after the lesson, before the bell rang, taking care of the plants, and that at the end of the school year I would be happy to distribute them to the class.

The girls immediately began classifying the plants and advising me on how best to take care of them – this one needed lots of water; that one needed direct sun all day; and this one had leaves you could eat – and, miracle of miracles, some of the boys even came over to get in on the palaver.

I kept my lessons short.  All the girls, and some of the boys, enthusiastically entered into the spirit of the thing, and as the weeks rolled by I brought in more and more cheap, sickly potted plants, which the kids immediately began nursing into bloom.

Of course, there was a hard core of boys who refused to have anything to do with my scheme.  I could not get them to participate.  The pleasant time I was having with the rest of the students seemed to goad them on, until one day one of these tough guys picked up a sapling off my desk and hurled it out the window, then tried to stare me down – daring me to do anything about it.  The girls set up such a ruckus that the assistant principal shot in to see if I had been lynched.  I explained what happened, and she turned on the tough guy with a fury that only the female of the species can summon and sustain.  He, and the other tough guys, cowered before her.  I found out later that basically what she had said was “I don’t care what you do to the farang teacher, but how dare you destroy one of these beautiful plants!  I can promise you that if another one of these blessed plants is disturbed by any of you hooligans I will personally have you roasted alive!”  She stalked out, and then my girls took over.  They ganged up on the tough guy and physically forced him out of the room to go retrieve the damaged plant from the courtyard below.  And they were not gentle about it.  And their language was – well, let’s just say I picked up some interesting new Thai vocabulary that day.

After that incident all the tough guys were thoroughly cowed by the girls in class.  The girls saw to it that the boys were alert and responsive, so the lesson would get over fast and the plants could be tended to.  Any boy who tried the gangsta business again was in for a tongue-lashing and, perhaps, after class, a beating, from the girls.  The plants prospered under their care.  One of them was a Thai eggplant, which actually produced some small, green, barely edible, fruit.

After several months I was able to finally line up another job in a much better school.  I’d like to say that my Klong Toey students gave me a “Good-bye, Mr. Chips” type of send off, but, truth to tell, all the students cared about was divvying up the plants.

All Thais, I’ve since learned, have a green thumb.  They nurture plant life like a farang nurtures a money market account.  And flowers never stop giving interest.



This taste of Thailand has been brought to you by Provo Flowers.  Show your loved ones that you care by bringing them flowers — the gift that lightens any room.

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It’s That Stupid Non-Holiday Again!


September 19, 2014 is

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ye who desires to talk like a pirate, look nae further for today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Tell all ye mateys with afree pirate-themed eCard! You can also blog like a pirate, tweet like a pirate, and just let ye true pirate shine.

Believe it or not, this fun holiday started in 1995 by two regular guys playing a game of racquetball. They started to yell encouragement to each other in pirate speak (“Arrr!”) and had so much fun speaking in pirate lingo that they decided to create a new holiday. For seven years they celebrated this holiday on their own. Then, in 2002, their story was told in a nationally syndicated newspaper.

Today, International Talk Like a Pirate Day has a pretty big following. So gather round me hearties, and learn how you can talk like a pirate all day long! “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”



This intellectually stimulating article is brought to you by LoLo’s Foods, in Provo, Utah.  Their food prices cannot be beat, not even by the big competitors.  Stop in today for their Fall Harvest specials.

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10 Ways the Higgs Boson Particle Can Help You.

Show Me Da Money!


  1. The particle is very volatile and unstable; in fact Stephen Hawking says the darn thing might go ka-bloey at any time and destroy the fabric of the universe – and wouldn’t that be great? No more Jeff Garcia Specials on Comedy Central!
  2. Higgs Boson is the new sexy! Just sidle up to your boyfriend or girlfriend and whisper in their ear that you know where to find a fresh Higgs Boson particle if they’d like to come up and see it.  Zowie!  There’ll be wedding bells and ambulance sirens in the offing!
  3. Take a dozen of ‘em for your constipation. Works like a charm.  Or your anti-matter back.
  4. As a nutritional supplement. A Boson a day keeps the doctor away!  They are tasteless and are absorbed immediately into the bloodstream by way of the underside of the tongue – they can’t even wait to get to your stomach!  A Higgs Boson particle has more vitamin C than an orange; more niacin than a dozen carrots, and more vitamin D than a gallon of moo juice.  It contains zinc, potassium, molybdenum, starch, glucose, and complex macramé molecules.  Don’t give your kids cereal for breakfast – feed ‘em la bowl full of Higgs Boson particles and watch their eyes, ears, tongue and epiglottis light up!
  5. You can now exchange your Higgs Boson particles for bitcoins. The going rate is one Higgs Boson for 20 bitcoins.  You can also use ‘em for Monopoly money – if you can keep track of them; they are awful tiny.
  6. Clothes come out whiter and brighter when you use a half cup of Higgs Boson particles in your wash. No more need for harsh chemicals and bleach.  Those Boson particles get in there like their cousins, the scrubbing bubbles, and loosen dirt and molecular chains.  Not only will your colors be brighter, but they may launch themselves into orbit around Jupiter.
  7. As a sleep aid they are without equal. Take two Higgs Boson particles ten minutes before bedtime and you’ll be astonished at how quickly your brain slows down and begins hearing the sea shore.  Soon you’ll be snoring like a buzz saw and counting neutrinos.
  8. They will fertilize your lawn. Place a heaping tablespoon of Higgs Boson particles in your compost pile and wait until tiny planetoids spring up and start orbiting the egg shells; then sprinkle this vitalized compost on your veggies and flowers.  The result will leave you absolutely speechless.  Snap dragons that actually snap; dandelions that roar; and violets that are violent and have to be restrained with handcuffs.
  9. Can a Higgs Boson particle be elected President? Maybe not in OUR lifetime, but it’s an even bet that our grandchildren will live to see a Higgs Boson particle addressing a joint session of Congress and declaring war on Sirius the Dog Star!  Kinda gets ya . . . right here.
  10. It is a well known fact that zombies hate Higgs Boson particles; if they start hanging around your neighborhood just sprinkle a few of the particles around the yard and those pesky creatures will shuffle off in the wink of an empty eye socket.
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An Independent Scotland.


The Scots are a race of quite canny old wights,

Who weigh ev’ry farthing while seeking their rights.

I can’t say I blame them for wanting to shed

Great Britain’s influence on each Scottish head.

The English have never enjoyed eating haggis;

To them it’s as nasty as bowls full of bagasse.

And who can forget Dr. Johnson’s report

That oatmeal is Scotland’s official consort?

But, really, the Scots want to have liberty

Just so they can charge an immense entrance fee!


This poem is brought to you by The Utah Scottish Association.  They host a variety of festivals and events throughout the year to celebrate Scottish culture and cuisine.


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Conservative Caucus Gains New Senate Leader.


Senator Lee to Head Steering Committee


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) was selected today to be the next chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators.  Senator Lee will assume the post at the start of the 114th Congress in January.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) served as chairman for the past two years.

“Mike Lee is a knowledgeable and principled movement conservative, and he has done a terrific job as vice chairman of the Steering Committee this Congress,” said Sen. Toomey. “I’m pleased to hand the gavel to him.  I look forward to continuing to work with Mike, and my colleagues, to advance innovative conservative ideas that help create jobs and grow the economy.”

“I am honored by the opportunity to chair the Senate Steering Committee,” said Sen. Lee. “Senator Toomey has been a courageous and principled leader and I hope to maintain the standard he has set.  The Senate Steering Committee will continue to develop and promote conservative solutions and facilitate vigorous discussion and debate on the issues that matter most to the country.  I look forward to leading this effort and very much appreciate the support of my colleagues.”


Established in 1974, the Steering Committee provides a forum where senators can work together to discuss and promote conservative legislation and policies.


Past Senate Steering Committee chairmen include Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Phil Gramm (R-Texas), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

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Happy Guacamole Day!


September 16, 2014 is

National Guacamole Day

Today is National Guacamole Day! We all know and love guacamole as a party snack, but there’s more to guacamole than meets the eye. Guacamole is made from avocados, which are packed with more than twenty vitamins, contain “good fats” that reduce cholesterol, can help fight cancer, and can be used as a substitute for butter or shortening in baking.

You can purchase pre-made guacamole at your local supermarket or buy some ripe avocados to make your own. Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July, Super Bowl Sunday, and Easter each account for approximately five percent of annual avocado sales. Have no fear, avocado trees produce up to 400 fruits a year so there should be plenty to go around. Happy National Guacamole Day!

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Thirty Eight Ways to Plant a Doubt.


If you try really hard, you can plant a bad thought every day.  Most people go through life thinking they must plant good thoughts, that it is some kind of obligation or duty.  Balderdash!  Just try motivating someone with “Have a nice day”.  They won’t have a nice day because you said it, will they?  In fact the chances are they will grimace and wish you in Hades for forcing them to hear such a tired old cliché again.  But if you say instead “Try and stay out of jail today”, just watch their reaction; first they will begin to smile, thinking you have said something tired and pleasant, then they will pause, startled, and then they will start thinking hard trying to remember if you know something about their past that can land them in the hoosegow.  Now you’ve got them worried and reviewing their actions for the past several years.  It’s a wakeup call, and most people need one every day.  Here are 38 more zingers that will cause healthy introspection:

  1. Your hair looks thinner.
  2. Can I ask why you’re wearing that dress?
  3. I admire your potential.
  4. You never really know someone else completely, do you?
  5. I thought about you while taking out the garbage today.
  6. It’s so restful having you around.
  7. That certainly is a distinctive way of putting it.
  8. Your children have lovely personalities.
  9. I bet you’d make a good parole officer.
  10. They asked about you down at the police station.
  11. Did they cut your bonus at work this year?
  12. No need to hurry; it’s not important.
  13. Is your plastic surgeon still licensed?
  14. I don’t think the scar will hurt much.
  15. It’s probably nothing.
  16. I’ve never had that problem.
  17. My uncle had that just before he died.
  18. At least you smile a lot.
  19. Well, a college degree isn’t everything.
  20. You’re looking more mature.
  21. I just assumed you weren’t very fussy.
  22. Do you still carry cash?
  23. It takes a special person to handle disappointment the way you do.
  24. I really like your cooking; I don’t care what anybody says.
  25. (After the first hour) I can’t stay long.
  26. I think you’d like Russia.
  27. Is that how they do it in New Jersey?
  28. Well, at least you’re honest about it.
  29. You’ll get over it sooner or later.
  30. Don’t worry; I only believe half of what I hear.
  31. You look good for someone in your condition.
  32. You must work with your hands.
  33. That necktie gives you real character.
  34. I like how you’re not afraid of what anybody else thinks of you.
  35. Don’t buy any green bananas.
  36. This kind of lighting makes everyone look fatter.
  37. I just KNOW the boss has special plans for you.
  38. You didn’t take me seriously, did you?



This entertaining blog is brought to you by Carl’s Jr, which has been rated one of the best Hamburger Joints in Utah by We R Chefs and the Utah Gourmand Club.  We eat there at least twice a week — how about you?  See their mouthwatering menu and get free coupons by clicking here.

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