Edward's Bangkok Blog

These articles are light-hearted views from 2011 to 2016, when Edward and his wife lived in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Article has image(s) Who Says I'm Fat?
(by Edward 2011-07-31)

Vanity Fair

In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, he describes the town of Vanity, "and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. ... It beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because...all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity." Since arriving in Bangkok, I have been regularly reminded of Bunyan's vision as this is a city most obsessed with vanity. One example of this happened this week at a local superstore. There was a large television displaying the live feed from a camera so that if you stood in front of the television you would see yourself as in a mirror. Standing directly in front of the camera so that no one else could enter its view was a young woman "dressed to the nines"--albeit in a miniskirt--and with makeup as though she were posing for the cover of Cosmopolitan. She seemed completely oblivious to the throngs around her as she posed, smiled, and puckered at the camera, all the while pleasantly admiring her own reflection. If anyone but himself could make Narcissus proud, she would have.

Targeted Marketing

With this overemphasis upon appearances, there are many thriving cosmetic businesses. You can change your appearance with everything from makeup, cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, and even [blush] gender-changing. Many times the malls will have gangs of young women in short-shorts and half-shirts yelling through bullhorns their "you-can-look-like-me" message. And standing throughout the mall are thin women and young men passing flyers for "slim centers." But I've noticed that, in the age-old wisdom of Asia, they don't usually waste their time and energy. The makeup evangelists literally pull at the arms of the girls who are either not wearing makeup, or apparently need a few more coats. The anti-fat evangelists literally pull at the arms of people...well, you get the idea.

Taking It Personal

I do not deny that I have my pride. But I will contest any accusation that I am overly vain about my looks. (Indeed, my wife has been burdened for nearly 20 years just to get me to shave regularly and to dress with some semblance of dignity.) But I'm confused. Last week when I was shopping for coffee, a toothpick with hair (perhaps it was a girl), kept pointing at the sugar-substitute then said something about "skinny." I told her thank you, and she kept repeating herself and raising her voice until I finally had to walk away. And when I accidentally walked by the mall's slim center, a woman tugged at my arm and handed me a flyer. It's like they're trying to tell me something. Perhaps I should make a t-shirt that says, "Who says I'm fat?" Or "It's a thyroid condition."

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Article has image(s) Coffee Hell
(by Edward 2011-08-05)

The Coffee Snob

Not so long ago in a land across the seas there lived a coffee snob. He boasted for years of the virtues of Arabica beans, the dignity of Jamaican Blue Mountain, the fragrance of Columbian Supremo, and the smooth “bite” of authentic Kona. He could discourse on different roasts, grinds, blends, crema, and even peaberries. He had often enjoyed roasting his own beans, and knew the difference between the first and second “pop.” He could discern and disdain a cup of Robusta at a sniff, and often commented that “Robusta should only be used as wood stain.” He once had an online store selling high-end coffee products such as $1,200 lever espresso machines. He loved good coffee, and loved to love it.

Levers And Wood Stain

Anyone who knows me knows that this is not a fairytale, but an autobiography. The lever machine pictured above is an actual product that I used to sell to other coffee snobs. And the bit about using Robusta as a wood stain is a true story from my childhood...but I don’t want to embarrass my parents.

Coffee For Newbies

All coffee snobs know that Arabica beans are superior to Robusta beans the same way that a Lamborghini is superior to a Volkswagen. It’s just a fact. And most coffee snobs agree that the best Arabica in the world comes from Jamaica, and the worst Robusta comes from Vietnam. It is very common for a can of coffee to advertise “100% Arabica” because Arabica is harder to grow (thus more expensive), and it does not contain the repulsive bitterness of Robusta (that’s the “snob” in me doing the talking).

The Mighty Are Fallen

When a coffee can contains Robusta, the label never brags. Like the poor kid whose father’s in prison, Robusta labels cannot tell the whole truth. When asked about his father, the child might say, “He’s at ‘camp.’” When asked about ingredients, Robusta labels say, “contains 100% ‘coffee.’” If you’re not a fellow coffee snob, you’ve probably never even read the label anyway.
I am not surprised that Robusta coffee is so common in Bangkok. But one of the most popular coffees has ads bragging that it is Robusta. The word “Robusta” is the most prominent text on the label, second to only the brand name. And in the commercials that are displayed on the subway TV’s (another topic for another day), the handsome actor smiles and shows his “Robusta” coffee. I subconsciously cringe and swallow to prevent dry heaves, and think, “I must’ve died and gone to coffee-hell.” After a few cups of instant, I’m certain that it’s true.

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Posted by: Mike C. (2011-08-07)

Time to ge a Nespresso machine, my friend! If you can get the pods, I can send the machine!

Posted by: Ed (2011-08-07)

Thanks for the offer! I actually use a French press, and am able to buy some decent Columbian Supremo at the Starbucks across the street (albeit overroasted...typical of Starbucks). [grin]

Posted by: The Dad (2011-08-19)

Hey, I remember using instant coffee( the cheap stuff) as a wood stain when you were a kid. Did you get that from me or somewhere else? Not familiar with robusta though.

Posted by: Ed (2011-08-19)

The wood stain ordeal was definitely from YOU, Dad. [grin]

Article has image(s) Just Like A Vacation
(by Edward 2011-08-15)

Being a missionary is just like a vacation. You find yourself surrounded by a new environment, and immersing yourself in a different culture. You imbibe the sites, sounds, and smells, and are enriched with experience. The sound of snapping pictures is reminiscent of a woodpecker, and your daily prayers include thanks to God for digital cameras because you could not afford to develop that much film. You love the thought of waking up each day because, after all, it's vacation!

But I admit that this is like no other vacation I have ever had. This is the first vacation where I have been working to establish a new church and home. I have had to open accounts, shop buildings, shop housing, learn the subway system, learn the skytrain system, learn the taxi system, study the language, buy church chairs and PA equipment, mop floors, and clean windows. Meanwhile, I have had to maintain daily reading, daily prayer, keeping the family sane, and simplify my sermonizing.

These aren’t complaints, they are merely facts. And another fact is that I love it. I’d have it no other way. When I walk through the door, sweat dripping head-to-toe from the inescapable humidity, my wife usually laughs at me and says something like, “You’re not happy unless you’re going a hundred miles-per-hour!” After 20 years of marriage, I’ve learned to always get in the last word: “Yes, dear.”

So, if a vacation is something you love to wake up to...so long as it doesn’t require constant R&R, and contains the typical work and frustrations of day-to-day living...this is just like it!

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Posted by: Mike C. (2011-08-24)

Not everyone is suited with the temperament, adaptability, positivity, grace, selflessness, willigness to listen/learn, and appreciation for the well-being of others to book this type of 'vacation' and be successful at it. It's a good thing Socorro is there to keep it together. [GRIN] You guys are my heroes!
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