Looking Ahead

November 23, 2009 at 11:36 am | Posted in Thailand | 1 Comment

It is approaching that time period where I must make a decision whether or not to teach in Thailand in the coming summer.  First things first, I need to identify whether I am allowed to do this under my contract at my new university, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  Assuming that is fine, I likely have 2-3 weeks to make-up my mind.  I have been 50-50 about a decision for some time now.  My main reason for against going for the third straight summer is the need to ‘take a break’ and focus on research.  My first visit to Thailand to teach in 2008 came right after the last day of school in the spring semester at Jacksonville State University and a ended only a day before the fall semester began.  My visit this past summer (2009) again came right after the last day of school in the spring semester and ended only a day before the summer session I taught.  I am getting to be a pro at getting over jet-lag in short order.  Perhaps it is time to take some time off.  If I do travel, it will likely be for only 1 month or so.  Looking ahead, since the spring semester ends on May 19 at UW-Whitewater and fall classes start on September 2, that would place either the month of June or July as the prime candidate for teaching in Thailand in 2010.  I will update how things progress in the coming weeks.

Last Videos In Thailand

July 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here is another quick post of the last batch of videos I took while in Thailand that I didn’t have the time (or opportunity) to post while over there.  While uploading these videos this morning, I was very shocked by how quickly it took.  A two-minute video took about 15-20 seconds to upload at JSU while over at ABAC (when I was able to successfully upload a video), a two-minute video would take about 15-20 minutes to upload.

The first video is one taken of a Thai fire station in Phitsanulok, Thailand.  I have taken pictures of this firehouse before in past visits to Thailand, but I thought a video could show a bit more than those still photos.  I had no idea what would be interesting to see from someone else’s point-of-view, so I just tried to get a sense of what it was like to walk around the place without being too intrusive.  I don’t try to say too much in this video for fear of embarrassing myself (any further) with my lack of knowledge of the firefighting profession.  Jet said that these firefighters work a 24 on, 24 off work schedule and that the pay is not very good for this type of job in Thailand.

The next clips are of the places where you pick up groceries in Thailand, either at the supermarket or at an open market.  The first clip was taken at on open street market and I tried to give a sense of how busy they are.  The second clip was taken at a typical Thai grocery store, which I tried to show some of the things that you could buy there that would be different than in the US.  Grocery stores in Thailand are not that much different than those in the US, with the exception of some of the types of foods that you can buy.  In particular, you will see fresh foods (e.g., vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood, etc.) that are comparable in variety to what you can buy in an open street market.  Another difference is with the types (and quantities) of sauces, noodles, and rice available to buy.  There is nearly an entire wall for both vegetable oil and ramen noodles, which are obviously used quite often in meals in Thailand.

The next few clips show what I believe to be one of the more fascinating things I see when I visit Thailand.  At 8:00am every morning and 6:00pm every evening, the Thai National anthem is played on all TV and radio stations.  This first clip was taken during my walk through the open street market in Phitsanulok.  It was such an amazing contrast from how busy the market is to how quiet and still it become when the national anthem was broad-casted over the speakers at 8:00am.  The second clip of what some Thai TV stations show was taken on the last morning of our visit to Thailand.  I apologize if the sound is not too loud as I was flipping through some of the Thai TV stations during the anthem, but I didn’t want to wake anyone up.  Here is a great website that translates (both phonetically and in English) the Thai national anthem and also has an audio clip of the anthem.  The lyrics (translated in English) are actually quite interesting:

Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body.
The whole country belongs to the Thai people, maintaining thus far for the Thai.
All Thais intend to unite together.
Thais love peace but do not fear to fight.
They will never let anyone threaten their independence.
They will sacrifice every drop of their blood to contribute to the nation, will serve their country with pride and prestige full of victory.
CHAI YO. [Cheers]

Back Safe And Sound

July 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just want to post a quick update – we are back in the US and are doing well.  The flight from Bangkok to Seoul seemed to be half-full, so there was plenty of room to relax and enjoy the 5 hour flight that left a little after midnight on Friday (in Thailand time).  I stayed up and watched the movie “17 again”, which to my surprise, I enjoyed.  We arrived on time in Seoul so we had a couple of hours to stretch out before the last long 13.5 hour flight home.  The flight from Seoul to Atlanta was mostly uneventful.  I watched several movies, my favorite being the Liam Neelson film “Taken”, which I found myself thinking many times, “Wow – that was so cool” to some line said or some scene.  There was a little more turbulence on this second flight than what I usually experienced on these flights, and there was a minute while passing over Iowa that was just dreadful as there were a series of rises and falls which gave you the sensation of weightlessness, but got lots of screams and shouts out from everyone.  That was not so pleasant.  I was able to get perhaps 1 hour total sleep on the whole trip home  that came from 3 short cat-naps.  In fact, since I awoke on Thursday at 4:00am (Thailand time) to start packing for our flight that night, that one hour of sleep has been the only sleep I have gotten.  That’s 48 hours awake to only 1 hour of sleep.  Sure I feel a bit tired, but am doing just fine and I am forcing myself to stay awake now so that I can recover from the jet-lag a little bit quicker.  The only other hick-up from the return home was in our arrival at the passport control in Atlanta.  We were some of the first from our flight to arrive there, and thus were at the beginning of the line.  After only the first handful of US citizen passengers were processed, there was a long wait until some potentially devastating news came out.  Apparently all of the computers were down and no one could be processed and sent on their way.  The immigration officers that were walking around relaying the news to us, commented that this problem had recently happened and people had to wait for over 3 hours to be sent on their way, and started handing out bottles of water.  Certainly not the news you wanted to hear after a long flight and being very anxious to get back home.  Fortunately for us, after about 30 minutes, they began to process only the US citizens waiting in line, and we were on our way.  Dan (our Wisconsin neighbor) was great once again in picking us up from the airport in Atlanta and bringing us back home.  Our trip to Thailand was another great experience, perhaps one that we will enjoy again next year, but it does feel good to be back home.

Passport Control

June 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jet and I took a trip to the nearest Thai Immigration Bureau office this morning (Tuesday) to take care of my visa, which is set to expire on Friday (July 3). Remember that I would not have had to worry about a visa extension if I hadn’t crossed into Burma as my original visa was good through July, but once I crossed the border, I was only given a 15-day pass. When we arrived, we stopped at a photo store just outside to get some passport-type photos that were needed with my visa extension application. When Jet explained to the store owner that we needed passport photos, the older (60’s) Chinese man commented to Jet how much he thought I looked like Tom Cruise. Jet could not stop laughing. We almost made it the whole trip without any mention of Tom Cruise, and what made Jet laugh so much was because it was an older Chinese man that brought him up. Oh well. After a 20 minute wait for the photos, we walked into the Immigration office, which was not unlike the DMV’s that I had spent so much time waiting in Wisconsin and Alabama. We waited a minute or two in the “information” counter line to get the right application, filled it out, then waited another minute or two in the “information” counter line so that we could get a ticket and were told to wait until our number came up at the right counter. It was only a few minutes before my number came up and we turned in my application and fee of 1900 baht (about $54). To our surprise, I was only allowed a single 7-day extension to my visa and would then have to pay a 500 baht fee (about $14) for each day I stayed beyond that. As luck would have it, an addtional 7 days extended the expiration date of my visa to July 10, which is the day that we fly back to the US. We had to wait for about 30 minutes for the offical to “process” my passport, but we were all done in about an hour or so. Hopefully we don’t have any more passport problems. Keep your fingers crossed!

I have my last class tomorrow (Wednesday), which will simply be student presentations. Although our final exams are on Friday, Jet and I are planning to have someone proctor the exams for us, then pick them up later that day. We then plan to grade the exams and submit final grades to complete our time teaching in Thailand. We will then either leave that night or Saturday morning for Phitsanulok to spend the last few days in Thailand with Jet’s family before returning to Bangkok for our flight back home. We are looking forward to getting back, though we really have enjoyed our time in Thailand this summer.

Just An Update

June 24, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We are now nearing the end of the semester as I have class tomorrow (Friday), Monday, student presentations on Wednesday, and the final exam next Friday. I am actually glad that our time is almost ending – not because I don’t like it here, but because I am anxious to get back to JSU (I was fortunate to get a class to teach right after I return) and for the upcoming move back to Wisconsin. There are quite a few things on the plate right now. Jet cancelled her class for tomorrow and had it rescheduled for today because she originally planned on returning home to Phitsanulok for the weekend.  After nearing her first semester of teaching in nearly 7 years, she deserves a chance to enjoy herself. Her classes appear to be going quite well as she is bringing in her second brand manager guest speaker today (from Reuters). The previous guest speaker was from Tipco, a popular juice manufacturer in Thailand.

Anothter Video

June 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just at the office today getting some more work done before I the midterm exams arrive this afternoon for me to grade. I had posted all of the videos yesterday that I had planned to share except one. It is a short video clip of a woman begging for money with her young son in her arms. Now there are no shortage of people on the streets of Bangkok that beg for money, particularly along the footbridges crossing major streets. Each of these individuals would likely be a compelling story as most beggars mamed (missing limbs), disfigured, or disabled in some way. It is also not unusal for woman to beg with young children either at their sides or in their arms. People are encouraged not to give money to beggars in Thailand as I recall watching several news stories last year reporting that the money collected by beggars is given directly to the Thai mafia. I have no idea of those reports were accurate, but ever since then, I have rarely given any money to beggars. I took this video because I did not want to forget the unsettling feelings I had when I first saw this woman holding her son. Quite honestly, however, those vivid images have been difficult to forget. Perhaps it was compelling to me because the boy was only slightly younger than my own son and was such a stark contrast to how active and exhuberent our boy is. The boy was dirty and had both old and fresh scabs all over his face, arms, and legs. I have no idea where the sores were from, perhaps some disease or from extended periods of time being exposed to filty conditions. As heart-wrentching as this sight was, my primary emotion was anger at the mother for using her son (assuming it was her son) as a prop for collecting money and keeping the boy in these awful conditions. I still have anger over this which both disturbs and disgusts me. Who am I to judge? But it is jarring scenes like these that make living in Bangkok, Thailand much different than Oxford, Alabama.

More Videos

June 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I have had a huge back load of videos that I have wanted to share over the past few weeks, but YouTube has been very uncooperative with me in allowing me to post them for you to see. I installed a new widget in Internet Explorer to allow me to upload videos in “bulk” (many at one time), and for some reason, that did the trick. So I couldn’t upload videos one-at-a-time, but I could upload them in bulk. Go figure.

This first set of videos are from the trip we just returned from over the weekend in Chiang Rai. The first video are some clips taken looking around from the middle of the Mae Fah Luang University campus. The second video is a short clip from the resort that we stayed at, Wanasom, which is located right on the campus of Mae Fah Luang University.

These next clips are also from this past weekend, but are from the Thai-Burma border of Mae Sai. This first video is me crossing over the bridge into Burma and walking around the bazzar just across the border. The second video is a brief clip of us passing through a security checkpoint on the highway leaving Mae Sai. We actually passed through a half dozen or so of these checkpoints, which were set-up to stop illegal activities (e.g., drugs, human trafficking, etc.).

These next videos are from the beginning of the month during our trip to Pattaya for the ABAC MBA freshman orientation. The first video are some clips from the resort we stayed at as well as a few other spots around the city. The second video is part of the Bai Sri (“Bi See”) ceremony, which is a Thai custom where part of it involves the faculty giving the new students their blessing and good wishes. I didn’t get video of that part happening because I was busy tying strings onto student’s wrists.

The next video is us eating at one of the all-you-can-eat BBQ’s in Thailand, which is one of my favorite things to do (go figure). All-you-can-eat for 99 baht (about $2.80) just cannot be beat.

These last couple of videos are a few random ones taken a little over two weeks ago. The first is a very short one at the “JJ” shopping market/bazzar in Bangkok. The second (and last) video is one watching people worship at the spot just across the street from the condo I am staying atin Bangkok. The first part of the clip is taken during the day up-close, the second part is in the evening looking down from up at the BTS (Bangkok Transportation System – Train) walkway.

One Month Left

June 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The new semester has begun, which is the last semester that I will be teaching this summer over in Thailand. I can already say with confidence that my current class will be very different than the last class that I taught. Most notably, I have 31 students (compared to 17 before) which seem like more since the classroom that I teach in is not that large. While my last classroom was always too cold, with so many people in my class this semester, I end up working up a sweat walking around the classroom. Another big difference is the work experience of my students. In my last class, only two had any previous work experience, while this semester, more than half of the class has work experience. This has made teaching a bit easier as I have been able to draw upon the experience of my students to relate personal examples of the technologies that they have used. Having a larger group of students, however, there have been instances where a few students have dominated class discussion by always sharing their experiences and opinions – regardless if they are correct or even related to the discussion. As a result, during the breaks of my first two classes, I have had to approach those students and thank them for their ambition and interest in the class, but that I needed their help by letting me get other students to get involved as well. I guess it will just be up to the “other” students to participate now. And speaking of the work experience of my students this semester, it brings perhaps one of the most unintentionally funny experiences I have had while teaching in Thailand. At the start of the first class, I have students introduce themselves by stating their names (which I usually can’t repeatcorrectly), their previous work history, and what their plans are once they graduate from ABAC’s MBA program. About halfway through classroom introductions reached a male student in the front row who told me that his profession was a “singer”, to which several of the girls in the rows behind him smiled and giggled to themselves a little. He then gave me (as a gift) his latest CD. It turns out that he is a singer in a popular “boy band” here in Thailand called “C-Quint“. The unintentionally funny moment came when the next student introduced himself and his previous work experience, which was working for his family business packaging and selling canned goods, and then giving me a can of tuna (as a gift) from his family business – a can of tuna? This is the fourth class that I have taught in Thailand and these were the first (and only) students to ever offer me a “gift”. I do not accept gifts from students because I do not want to put myself into a situation where it appears that students will receive special treatment as a result of these actions, but I ended up relenting and accepting these gifts as it became clear that my refusal to take them came off as a rejection of their generosity and seemed to be a cultural slight. It has been rare, however, when I have been put into such uncomfortable positions while teaching in Thailand. When I told Jet of the CD “gift” I received, she insisted that she meet him, and for a moment, appeared to be like a teenager when she talked (and giggled/laughed) with him, which I also thought was pretty funny. Afterwards, Jet claimed to tell me that she must have known that he was in a band because he “looked too good” to be just a regular student. How funny. I will actually not see this student too much this semester as he will be missing a few classes because he will be on tour. That is an excuse that I have never gotten from a student before.

Jet has been having a good time teaching her Brand Management class here at ABAC, her first class teaching in Thailand. Jet has spent a lot of time preparing for class and it really seems to have paid off as she will tell me stories of the great discussions that she has had with her students in class. Jet has also joined a membership to a health club on the 9th floor at the shopping mall and has been attending some “extreme” yoga classes each day, coming back to the condo soaked in sweat each evening.

I have a few other videos that I have taken and that I want to share with you, but I have had a hard time uploading them to YouTube over the past three days. I am not sure if this is a problem with YouTube or something that is preventing me from uploading the videos either at ABAC or in Thailand. I guess these videos will just have to wait. I did post some pictures from the funeral (added tothe previous post) and pictures from the weekend in Pattaya along with some other random pictures (see below).

The freshman orientation was a good experience in Pattaya over the weekend. After arriving at the hotel, the faculty were able to check into their rooms before attending a welcome session just before lunch (students had to wait until the evening before they could check into their rooms). The welcome session was a little boring as it was just several administrators/faculty introducing themselves and their expectations of them as students of ABAC which lasted a little over an hour. After lunch, a Bai-Sri (“Bi See”) ceremony took place, which is a traditional Thai ceremony where students ask for blessings from faculty. Jet and I sat in chairs front of the rows of students with all of the other faculty members, we were given several pieces of strings, and then students approached us and got on their knees in front of us. I simply asked the students their name, where they were from, and what their major was before I said “I hope you do well in your studies” or something goofy like that as I tied a piece of string around their wrist. The Bai-Sri ceremony typically takes place in the evening when it is dark out as the students all have candles and a dramatic ceremony takes places involving those candles, but ABAC decided to move the ceremony to right after lunch so that all students could participate. I guess many students would skip the ceremony when it was held in the evening to go out “on the town” to dance clubs and pubs instead. It was a nice ceremony to see for the first time and Jet told me that the Bai-Sri ceremony that she participated in while an undergraduate student at Bangkok was different than this one. After this ceremony, the students were broken up into groups to work on skits and investment/business games for the entire afternoon (until 5:00pm). During that time, Jet and I had the freedom to do whatever we wanted, so we caught a free hotel shuttle to do some shopping at some malls and along the beach in Pattaya. I let Jet do some shopping on her own while I walked around taking in the sights while listening to my iPod. During this time to myself, I was reminded of the primary reason why I don’t like Pattaya – all of the foreigners walking around everywhere with their Thai “companions”. This has always made me feel uncomfortable walking around with Jet in these locations because I do not like being grouped with the likes of these much older or unkempt (dirty, out-of-shape) foreigners with young Thai women at their sides. To make things worse, one song after another on my iPod played like a soundtrack for what I was watching on the streets of Pattaya (e.g., “tiny dancer” – Elton John, “it’s a sin” – Pet Shop Boys, “paradise” – Tesla, “part-time lover” – Stevie Wonder, etc.). I almost couldn’t believe my ears when I then heard a song by Alabama (“take me down”) that also fit this genre of music. Alabama of all groups! What did these songs say about my taste of music? I had never seen this connection before and perhaps I will need to think a little bit more the next playlist I put together for my iPod. When Jet was finished shopping, we walked by a picture gallery that had some very nice paintings for sale for about $80 or so that we thought would look great in whatever our new home might be. The store agreed to pack the paintings themselves so that they would be easy to bring back with us to the US, but Jet and I just could not pull the trigger on the deal. We are still thinking about getting those paintings as we did get their phone number and they said they would also be willing to send them to Bangkok for us, but Jet and I would like a little more time to sit on the decision and the chance to see other paintings at other markets around Thailand. This is a key reason that we went shopping at the “JJ” mall on Sunday. After returning from shopping, we attended dinner, which as I mentioned in a previous post, was outstanding in quality and selection of food to eat. This was also the time whenI was pressured to get on stage and sing “country roads”. That was pretty much it for the weekend as the next morning (Sunday), Jet and I ate breakfast, checked-out of our room, ate lunch, and was on a bus back to Bangkok. It was a good trip where I experienced several new things and got a chance to network with other faculty members at ABAC. Jet really enjoyed meeting the other faculty members as they gave her several contacts, one a brand manager that agreed to be a guest presenter for one of her classes.

So looking ahead, we will be going to Phitsanulok tomorrow, and we have plans for going to Chiang Rai next weekend to visit Jet’s uncle. Since we have our midterm exam next week Friday, which we have someone else proctor for us, we will leave for Phitsanulok after class on Wednesday, drive to Chiang Rai on Thursday, and spend Friday and Saturday relaxing and shopping – likely crossing the border over to Burma again for some good deals. We’ll keep you updated on the latest.

JSU News

May 31, 2009 at 5:00 am | Posted in Thailand | 1 Comment

Here is a recent feature story about my work here in Thailand that appeared in the JSU News.

JSU Faculty Members Travel to Thailand to Discuss Partnerships
2009-05-28
Drs. Ciganek and Francia meet with Dr. Srisakdi

Drs. Ciganek and Francia meet with Dr. Srisakdi

MCIS department faculty members Drs. Andrew P. Ciganek and Guillermo A Francia, III recently met in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss international partnership opportunities with Dr. Srisakdi Charmonman, the CEO of the College of Internet Distance Education at Assumption University. Dr.. Suprasith Jarupathirun, a visiting professor in the MCIS department from Thailand during the spring semester, accompanied the JSU faculty members. Potential collaborations on information security and assurance was a point of emphasis during the meeting given the MCIS department’s expertise in the area and recently having been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Dr. Charmonman, who has been recognized as the “Father of the Internet in Thailand” and the “Father of Thai e-Learning”, has held dozens of high-ranking administrative, governmental, and international positions and has played a key role in shaping information security and assurance policies in Thailand. These positions include the Chairman of the Computer Working Group at the Office of the Prime Minister, an IT expert in the Committee to Integrate and Revolutionize the National Records chaired by the Prime Minister, Deputy Chairman of the Extraordinary Committee on Copyrights of the House of Representatives, Chairman of five Subcommittees on National Professional Standards at the Ministry of Labor, an expert member of the National Copyright Committee, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Software Copyright in the National Copyright Committee, and President of the Club of the Associate Judges of the Central Intellectual Properties and International Trade Court, among other high ranking positions held.

Short Videos

May 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One thing that I have been trying to do is take more short video blogs to share with you about my time here in Thailand.  Here are a couple from the past few days, one of me at Mor Chit (Bangkok bus station) and one of the street market by my condo.  One question I often get is how are McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. different than in the US, so I will be sure to get some video of that before I leave so you can see for yourself.  If you have other things you would like for me to video and share, let me know and I will try to get it up in the coming days.

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