Getting to Know Me

One of the things that’s always a challenge for me when I start following someone’s blog is understanding who they are.  Much like entering the cinema halfway through a movie, joining a blog that is already in progress leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  “Who is that person?”  “What vacation is he talking about?”  “What horrible illness happened two years ago?”

A friend from Xanga suggested a few months ago that going back and browsing through earlier entries is a good way to round out your knowledge about a blogger.  That’s a good idea as I’ve just set up on WordPress, you don’t have many back entries through which to browse!  To simplify things, here is a brief introduction of myself.  That way you can do as much or little catching up as you wish to do.

Allow me to introduce myself…

My name is Chris.  I’m an American citizen who was born in 1970 and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Since October 2005 I have been a resident of Bangkok, Thailand (which I often refer to using its Thai name, Krungthep) where I live with my husband Tawn.

I started blogging a few months before moving here.  Its initial (and continued) purpose was to provide my family and friends an easy way to keep tabs on what I’m up to and the experiences I have as an expatriate.  A lot of what I write is about that experience.

DSCF9179
Chris at the Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya province.

I’ve written about my thoughts about possibly moving back.  I’ve written about what it’s like to live in Thailand.  I’ve been studying Thai since moving here and now read, write, speak and even sometimes understand the language.  Living abroad has a lot of challenges.  For example, learning to cross the street without getting killed!  Other challenges have included making friends in a strange land and dealing with fellow countrymen whose views on being an American rubbed me the wrong way.

DSCF7363

Living here has provided so many wonderful adventures.  I’ve done a lot of bicycling to explore the city and surrounding areas, resulting in some interesting and unexpected misadventures.  For more than a year, I volunteered as an English teacher once a week at a tiny country schoolhouse ninety minutes outside Krungthep.  I discovered the schoolhouse on one of my bike rides, had a great time teaching there, and concluded the assignment when the director of the school retired.  They even included me in their Teachers’ Day ceremonies, which was a great honor.

DSCF0431
My students at Bangkhonthiinai School in Samut Songkhram province.

Along the way, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s reign (the longest reigning current monarch in the world, by the way!).  We had a coup.  My parents and some other family members came to visit.   Tawn and I bought and remodeled a condo.  And we hosted a lovely poolside Thanksgiving dinner.

DSCF8227
Watching the royal barge procession to celebrate the King’s anniversary.

Of all the writing I’ve done about Thailand, though, the one that has received the most views was one I wrote about the debate over teenage castration, a practice common in young Thai men who feel that they are transsexuals.  For some reason, there are a lot of people who Google “teenage castration” and it seems my entry is pretty high up in the results.

As I mentioned, I live with my husband Tawn.  We were married in August 2009 in the United States although we’ve been together since early 2000.  The story about how we met is a sweet one, deserving of a movie screenplay.  After we first met, Tawn lived and studied for his master’s degree in San Francisco.  Now that I’ve been here in Thailand for more than four years, I’ve spent more time living here than Tawn spent living in the US!

000018-1
Tawn and I a few days after meeting in January 2000.

When viewing those entries, you might notice that Tawn is a man and so am I.  While I don’t feel the need to make a big fuss about it, it seems that my being gay is a matter of fact that comes up quite often.  For example, when we wanted to get married in California but couldn’t because 52% of the voters thought we shouldn’t have that legal right. Thanks to rulings in mid-2013 by the United States Supreme Court, that issue is somewhat moot.

But this blog isn’t all about love and marriage and Thailand and politics.  The real undercurrent of this blog is food.  I’m a foodie.  Not only do I enjoy eating, I love to cook.  I particularly enjoy trying foods I’ve never made before, just to see if I can.  Bagels, French macaronspasta, baking bread – I’ll try cooking or baking anything just to see if I can.

DSCF6611
My friend Ryan and I buying bánh mì from a vendor in Saigon.

In addition to food, I love travel and enjoy meeting new people.  I’ve had the chance to meet several other Xangans both in their hometowns and here in Thailand.  Tawn and I have been fortunate (not having children makes it easier…) to be able to travel a lot.  We had a fun trip to Tokyo last spring, a trip to Saigon a few years back with a dear school friend, a trip to Seoul the winter I arrived in Krungthep, and a honeymoon in New York City, just to name a few destinations.

So that’s me in a nutshell.  There’s so much more I could write and so much more I’ve already written.  But I’m glad we’ve had a chance to meet and I hope you’ll enjoy reading my blog.

Which brings me to one more thing… one of the things I most appreciate in a subscriber is interaction.  We’re all busy, I get that.  But when people subscribe and never, ever leave a comment, it makes me wonder what interests them about my blog.  It’s a little freaky, in fact.  And when people send a friend request but have never commented even once?  Well, that’s not much of a start to friendship.

So don’t be shy, people.  I’m not asking for a lot, but a bit of interaction and an occasional comment means a lot for me and I think it strengthens the sense of community here.

A Birthday Message

Today I turn 41 years old.  This seems to be a popular time for birthdays.  Two friends here in Thailand share my birthday, two other friends have birthdays the day before, and a dozen other friends have birthdays within plus or minus a week.  Perhaps St. Valentine’s Day provides a good explanation for this mini-bubble of mid-November Scorpios.  That’s speculation, though, and beside the point.

Sue 2008.12.28 - 004 Sue 2008.12.30 - 005 Sue 2008.12.30 - 016 P1180233
I’ve heard of “peak oil”… does “peak hair” also exist?

To give you a brief update, life is going quite well.  Yesterday, as part of a habit I would like to create, I visited the doctor for an annual physical.  By chance, I was seen by Dr. Nina, an Indian-born doctor whom I had seen a few years ago for a suspected case of Dengue Fever (which, thankfully, it was not).  I’m glad I reconnected with her as she has a wonderful manner and I will make it a point to have her as my regular physician.


In any case, the general conclusion is that I am fine, health-wise.  My cholesterol, which had dropped from about 260 three years ago to only 165 a year ago, has since climbed back to about 250.  We’ll have to monitor this and see if some diet and exercise changes can bring it back under control.  Other than that, a clean bill of health.  If I can lose a few kilograms over the next year, we’ll all be happier at next year’s check-up, too!

P1180204

Celebration-wise, I don’t think Tawn and I will do that much to celebrate.  We had a large sausage making, cooking and eating dinner this past weekend with some friends (see “lose a few kilograms,” above), so that was probably enough hoopla to celebrate.  Instead, a quiet evening at home with Tawn should be celebration enough.

P1010040-1

From a general happiness standpoint, I realize that despite the few gripes and frustrations that arise in life, I have very little about which to be unhappy and a very large amount to be thankful for.  Yesterday, in what I interpret to be a nice bit of serendipity, a university friend of mine posted a quote from poet Gunilla Norris that I think should be my birthday prayer:

“Guard me against the arrogance of privilege,
against the indulgence of feeling that I don’t have enough,
and the poverty of spirit that refuses to acknowledge what is daily given to me.”

Beautiful and timely, isn’t it?  When I think of all the wonderful people, experiences, and opportunities I have had thus far in my life, I can’t help but be grateful to everyone and everything that has played a role.

 

Happy First Anniversary

Coming hot on the heels of Federal District Court judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 unfairly discriminates against gay men and women in their right to marry the partner of their choosing, the timing of my first anniversary of marriage to Tawn seems quite appropriate.  Yes, it was a year ago today that a group of family and friends gathered in a courtroom in Iowa and Tawn and I exchanged vows and started our life together as spouses. 

Not wanting to get into a tangent about legal issues, as I’ve written on the topic of same-sex marriage rights many times before, I’ll simply say that I agree with the gist of the 136-page ruling: My having the right to marry Tawn does nothing to diminish the value of any different-sex marriages, but denying me the right does me grievous harm while doing nothing to benefit the interests of the state.

Having just celebrated my grandparents’ 67th anniversary, I am hopeful that medical technology will progress to the point that Tawn and I, too, have the opportunity to reach such a milestone.  Realistically, of course, I’ll be happy if we get thirty or forty years.  Most importantly, though, I will focus on just enjoying each day we have together.

Happy anniversary, Tawn!

P1180701

The full entry about that wedding is here, for those who didn’t see it and are interested. 

 

What’s Up with the Whiskers?

So Jason raised the question in response to my last entry, when did the facial hair come about?  As you can see below, I was not sporting a goatee when Tawn and I first met in 2000.  For that matter, I was wearing glasses, too – something else that has changed in the past decade.

000018-1

So when Tawn and I met, I was clean cut.  This was not, however, always the case.  I’ve had a history of some facial hair going back into the early 90s.  An on-and-off sort of history, but a history nonetheless.  Below is a picture of me and some university friends (and my faculty advisor!) at the 1993 March on Washington for  Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights.

000009-1

Discussing this with Tawn last night, he pinpointed our short March 2001 trip to Paris as the first time I started growing a goatee.  Here’s me on top of Montmartre with the first signs of a goatee.

000006-1

The goatee, however, was not a permanent fixture in those years.  I would sometimes shave it off – something that Tawn, who was quite fond of the goatee, took to be an indication that I no longer loved him.  For a short while, I shaved off the moustache and had only the lower half of the goatee, a look that was not documented on film.

Reviewing older pictures, I’ve tried to determine when I finally made the goatee a permanent part of my look.  There’s this picture of me on the London Eye, which I think dates from March 2002.  No goatee.

000022-1

In September 2002 at our friends Colleen and Sean’s wedding at Lake Tahoe, I’m still clean shaven.  Or at least, I’m clean shaven again.  This must have been a very confusing period for Tawn.  “He loves me, he loves me not.  He loves me…”

000017-1

By January 2003, when we were in Thailand for a visit and flew to Manila for a friend’s wedding, the goatee seems to have become a regular fixture.  I don’t see any photos after that date with a clean chin.

000018-1

So that’s the story of the facial hair, Jason.  As for the glasses, I had lasik surgery in the summer of 2000.  Not for cosmetic reasons (I look better with glasses, I think) but because of the hassle of glasses, especially when playing sports.  Here’s a picture a few hours after surgery.

img002

Thankfully my friend Lilian gave me a place to stay and drove me to/from the surgery.

 

Singing in the Rain

It takes a long time for mail to get here sometimes.  This last week I received bunches of Christmas and holiday cards, most of which had been sent long before the holidays.  Among them was a card from Sugi and Andy containing a CD of the final batch of photos from our trip to visit them in Taipei.

Included in it was this great shot.  We were at the Tamshui Fisherman’s Wharf on a wet, cold and blustery day.  As Sugi and I posed for a picture the wind got the better of her and her umbrella.

DSC_0840 - Version 2

Needless to say, the umbrella was destroyed.  But we enjoyed a good laugh, which is really the point, right?