Chris hit by credit card fraud

Credit Card It took two years to happen, but almost as if to welcome me into my third year in Bangkok, I was bitten by my first case of credit card fraud.  When I woke up this morning, I had a voicemail on Skype from my credit card company asking me to call them to verify some purchases.  When I called in there were several purchases from high name fashion and cosmetic stores – the companies were based in France but I’ll assume the charges were made here in Thailand – totalling about $4,500 on Monday.

Who got the number?  Hard to know for certain but I haven’t used the card in several days nor have any charges appeared until after I used it at the Food Hall at Zen department store at Central World Plaza yesterday evening.  My guess is that there is some scam going on with the ladies working the check-out lines there.

I’m not certain whether I should lodge a complaint with their management or even inform the police.  I do want to go back to Central World and see if the names on the list of charges correspond with shops there.  Even to talk to the store managers and make them aware of the fraudulent activity.

Thankfully, Chase was on the job and spotted the unusual charges.  Bless those spending algorithms.

 

Britishisms

On a conference call Friday evening with colleagues in the US, Canada and the UK.  My boss and my primary internal customer are discussing plans for their trip to visit the UK team next week.  My customer asks the UK operations manager about some arrangements, to which Jim responds, “It’s all tickerty boo.”

“Hmm…” I think, “there’s an expression I haven’t heard.”

While still on the call, I send Jim a Skype message to clarify what the expression was.  Sure enough, I heard correctly: tickerty boo – everything’s okay or in good order.

The good news is that even if one doesn’t have a British colleague, one still has the world wide web.  Check out this entry about the phrase.

 

Funny.  We didn’t have much to do this weekend so we were going to go out of town.  Then one item came up, stopping by our designer’s to discuss furniture, so our plans were canceled. 

Martha 3 Saturday turned into a full day of errands for us, all house related, and the stop we made at our designers seemed to be – my opinion here – a colossal waste of time as there was no conversation about furniture, other than to learn that he had found a table that met our specifications but that it was staying at the vendors until later.

Perhaps the only really worthwhile aspect of all these errands (besides getting to spend the whole day with Tawn, of course) is that we stopped at a place that was having a new metal gate installed and Tawn spoke with the supervisor of the construction team, who confirmed that their company could easily design and build the Martha Stewart style bed (right, from the Turkey Hill collection), for about one-fifth the cost if we bought it at the store.

So there is a bit of a silver lining to the day (and the bed, for that matter).

In the evening, we met Ken, Chai, Russ, and Roka for dinner at the Paragon Food Hall then watched the movie, “The Kingdom”.  Kind of hyper-violent and while it tried to speak in a timely manner about terrorism, it was ironic to me that the movie shows the FBI agents who are investigating the murder of US citizens in Saudi Arabia getting angry and “cowboy-esque” with their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, insensitive to their culture and values.  Isn’t that part of what fuels the terrorists?

Anyhow, primary painting at the house is finished.  Lights are being installed and other fixtures added.  The countertops have been marked and are ready to be cut for the sinks and stove.

P1010640

P1010646

P1010648

Above from top: Living room looking into the second bedroom/office; desk and closets in the main bedroom; back wall of the main bedroom – through the door to the left you can see the area of the living room that appears in the first picture.  Kind of difficult to really see the floor color due to the dust and cardboard that is meant to protect it before a final finish is applied.

 

Not to Korat

This was going to be the get-away weekend: the last weekend before the preparations for the move to the new condo got serious.  So Tawn and I were going to drive up to Korat and Khao Yai, about two hours northeast of Khrungthep, visit some property that Tawn’s father owns up there, and explore the self-proclaimed “Gateway to Issan“.

So what would be the one thing that would stop us? 

Our designer, who with his globe trotting travel schedule to far away places like Turkey and India, has summoned us to a meeting to discuss furniture.  Since scheduling time with him has been so difficult, we must make ourselves available when he is.  To be fair, he is a well-known Thai designer, doing many stores and boutique hotels.  He’s doing our home remodel as a favor as he’s our friend, certainly at a discounted price, so these schedule challenges are a small price to pay.

Still, we’re not going away this weekend.

 

Martha 1 Friday night I met Tawn at Paragon to take a look at some furniture at the Martha Stewart Store.  Actually, it isn’t the Martha Stewart store, but it is the only store in Thailand authorized to sell the Martha Stewart furniture collection, so the entire store is done up so that you wouldn’t know that it isn’t a Martha Stewart Store. 

We go in there frequently to get ideas as it is a style we like.  The store was designed by our decorator friend and dressed by him as well, as are many of the furniture stores in Paragon.

The lady who works there is so familiar with us, she just invites us in to have tea.  We sit at a dining room table on display in the main room, drinking tea and nibbling M&Ms, like two life size mannequins.

Martha 2 While there, we looked at various catalogs, discussed different pieces of furniture on display, and considered the merits of ordering a US-sized bed versus a Thai-sized one.  A king-size bed in Thailand is not a king-size bed in the US. 

Khun Nirin – note the carefully crafted PR in this linked story – told us of an experience where two picky customers – a pair of women – spent a half hour lying in one of the beds (under the covers, even) in order to try it out before spending that much money to buy the mattress.  It was the middle of the day, other customers were coming and going, and the women just lay there seeing if they’d be comfortable on the mattress for an extended period of time.

If you think about it, it makes sense.  Most of us shop for mattresses by lying down for sixty seconds or less.

 

P1010618 I ate Halal for dinner at my favorite vendor in the food court.  The nice lady there prepares Muslim style food and they have a chicken roti-mataba that is just lovely. 

It is a southern Thai dish that takes thin, crepe-like roti and stuffs them with a curried chicken (or beef or lamb) and shallot mixture, then fries it in a pan to crisp the sides a little.  The mataba is served with a side salad or cucumbers, shallots and chilies in a rice wine vinegar sauce, along with a spicy green chili sauce.

Not feeling fully satiated, I went haram and ate some pork satay.  That was tasty, too, although obviously from another vendor.

Below: Tawn took a dozen takes for this picture at a dozen different settings before coming up with something usable.

P1010624

As there wasn’t much to watch in the cinemas, we headed home where I was early enough to participate in a conference call with work at 10:00.  Which was kind of boring, actually.

P1010615

Funny food pictures:  Above: Ken and Roka clown around at a Japanese restaurant called Yayoi, part of a Japanese chain that is operated here in Thailand by MK Restaurants.  They serve you tea in this fun, brightly-colored English teapots with these tiny pink teacups that look to be stolen from a child’s tea party set.  Below: Last weekend in the midst of errands we stopped for dim sum at SK Park Hotel, at the Chinese restaurant that Tawn’s whole family frequents.  We didn’t check in advance and lucked out that nobody we knew was there.

P1010594

The Big 0-2

As hard as it may be to believe, yesterday marked my second anniversary here in Khrungthep.  Sure enough, on the evening of October 31st, 2005 I arrived on the THAI Airways nonstop from New York to begin the next stage of my life with Tawn.

What’s transpired since then?

I’ve had the opportunity to learn to read, write and speak Thai and, I’ll say with a mix of modesty and satisfaction, I’ve had some success availing myself of that opportunity.  Many days it is a struggle and there’s plenty of times when I still don’t know what the heck people are talking about, but my confidence and skill is pretty high and – the best measure – I don’t hesitate to use the Thai I know.

I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer for a year as a once-a-week English teacher in Samut Songkhram province.  While I’m very sorry the opportunity has come to an end, the experience has shaped me and the lessons learned will stay for a lifetime.  I also hope that the influence I’ve had on the children has been positive and that the lessons they’ve learned will shape them, too.  Also, I’m very thankful that I could share this experience with so many other people including Kobfa, Ken, and Markus as well as numerous visitors including Pat, Aaron and my family.

I’ve built the beginnings of a wide network of good friends.  While they are predominately gay men – admittedly, there is still room for some more diversity – they come from a variety of backgrounds, countries, cultures and walks of life.  In the first half year here, Tawn and I didn’t have much to do most evenings.  Nowadays there is something going on most every night, to the extent that we have to excuse ourselves from participating in many of them.

I’ve started getting to know some areas of the city from on-the-pedal experience, gaining the confidence to navigate on two wheels and to explore stretches of the city and the surrounding countryside that you cannot fully appreciate from inside a car.  I’m convinced that this is one of the best ways to see the real Thailand.

Finally, and most importantly, I’ve started to gain an understanding of Thailand, Thais, Thai culture, and “Thai-ness” in general.  I say this with utmost awareness that the minute I say it, I’ll wind up getting bitten in the ass, and I say it with the awareness that I have taken but a single step on a journey that I cannot complete in just one lifetime.  But from time to time, I can look at things here and “get it”.  Those are fleeting moments, to be sure, but are a rich reward for the time and effort spent learning to “be” here these past two years.

Here’s to another year in this extraordinary adventure.

Below: For about five minutes yesterday afternoon at 5:50, the entire sky in all directions was bathed in an ethereal pink light.

P1010617