Thailand - 2006 in Nakhon Sawan

Journal Entries

April 21, 2006 - Nakhon Sawan

It's been over half a year since I have commented on life in Southeast Asia. The time since February of 2005 until now has been absorbed with teaching and writing. Both have been very time consuming but the most concentrated effort has been in the research centered around the Khmer temples in Cambodia and Laos. Beginning in April of 2005 a pilgrimage was made to Vat Phu in Champassak, Laos, another one in October, and then most recently in February of this year. For over a year all I have been doing is writing about Vat Phu and reading the two ancient epics from India; the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
The amount of concentration spent on understanding Vat Phu led to a better understaning of the precession of the equinoxes and how this was incorportated into the Vedic scriptures. Eventually I created a blog for my writings on Vat Phu. A buddhist monk whose anglo name is Troy Harris, but who then changed his name to SriTantra, has been most helpful with providing valuable research on the Khmer civilization as well as on-line support for understanding the way a blog works. Links to his works are on my blog with his article the Khmer Contribution.
Eventually I got in touch with Dr. Sachchidanand Sahai, the editor and founder of the Southeast Asian Review, and at this time a special paper I wrote on the Holy Land of Kruksetra in the ancient city of Champassak is under review.

The most memorable event thus far in 2006 is the climbing of the sacred mountain Lingaparvata in Champassak, Laos. I think the effects of climbing this mountain will be with me for a long time.

The PASAA Journal from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok published my paper on "Internet Methodologies" in their Spring Issue. The journal focuses on teaching English to Thai students.

May 16, 2006 - Nakhon Sawan

On April 30th I made a special pilgrimage to Wat Phra Si Maha Uma Devi in Bangkok to see the Holy Water brought from 5 sacred rivers in India for King Bhumibol's coronation on May 5th. This is the 60th anniversary of the King's accession to the throne of Thailand. He is the longest reigning monarch in Thailand and the world. The title of an article to pay tribute to the King is: Pilgrimage to the Holy Waters of India.

A new web site commemorating the King's celebrations was placed on the internet last night. Celebrations for the King

July 30, 2006 - Nakhon Sawan

The world is reeling in shock as the Middle East is pulverized by bombs and missles. The human misery and environental disaster is incomprehensible. How mankind can continually inflict these barbaric acts against itself does not speak well at all for the state of human evolution. I do not get a good feeling from this crisis. The hate that is being generated is fostering a state of desperation, and out of that state very unreasonable actions are sure to follow that will escalate into a human tragedy that is already beyond belief.

Living in Thailand all I can do is see the images on the television, read the stories in the newspaper, and scan the internet for the latest blog or incident about the Middle East. Even if all the bombs stopped falling today the lives of untold millions of people and other living creatures has been disrupted forever.

What can we learn from history about what is going on today? My own work has recently focused on an ancient Vedic God with a horses head called Vadavamukha. This has been an on going research project to study the influence that ancient India had on SE Asia. The significance of the mythology of the ancient Vedic gods and how their world predicted what would happen in our world of today has been a line of focus for me. I have come to understand how the ancients attibuted meaning with the precession of the equinoxes. Most recently I have finished studying "The Architecture of the Sprit" by Pete Stewart of Scotland. His book is posted on the internet and as we slowly precess into another world age the pillars which once supported the definition of our relationship to the stars is undergoing change. It's these changes we are experiencing that gives us a feeling of things falling apart. Looking at the dynamics of history against the backdrop of our relationship to the heavens has occupied my time now for many months going on into many years. In ancient India they believed that this is the age of the kali yuga. Today we are in the last years of this yuga cycle where the world reaches gross materialisism devoid of all spirit. Havoc and destruction will be the norm.

In the village of Banta-nagai I have completed my research on the Buddhist temple Wat Mongkonsathit and recently completd a photo essay of the temple that will be put into a small book. The article will be posted on my web site titled, On My Way to see the Buddha. The abbot of the temple is 90 years of age and I did a photo portrait of him. His name is Prakru Niti-tumrat. Click on the portrait for a larger view.

Prakru Niti-tumrat, Abbot of Wat Mongkonsathit

Gada Van De Bogart is now 3 years and 8 months old. She is a very healthy little girl and enjoys herself a lot playing with her friends. She attends the day care center for kids her age at Wat Mongkonsathit with her brother and sister. I think a great deal about her education and her future. Teaching kids as I do in Thailand and seeing their educational system I question the level she can attain in the schools in Thailand. This is an on-going concern of mine as I constantly research new teaching methodologies for Thai students.

Gada Van De Bogart in the village of Bangta-nagai

August 30, 2006 - Nakhon Sawan

On August 21-22, I attended the 2nd Seminar on Indo-Thai Historical and Cultural Linkages in Bangkok at the Royal Grand Hotel. It was an opportunity to listen to scholars from India and Thailand on the two thousand year old relationship which has existed between the two nations.

After teaching Thai students for three years I finally devised my own approach to Teaching conversational English. The paper has been accepted for presentation at the International Conference, "TFacing EFL Challenges", sponsored by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok in November. Unfortunately I will have to decline since I am planning going back to San Francisco on October 4th. I would like to think I could make a difference in the educational system of Thailand.

September 7, 2006 - Nakhon Sawan

Well, it appears my concerns for giving Gada a better education has made me decide to return to San Francisco early in October 2006. Thailand has been having a great deal of trouble raising its standards to produce a better student. Most recently two jounalists, Jadakan Limkoonsate and Chularat Saengpassa wrote an article for the Nation on August 23, 2006 p.5A titled "15,000 schools fail quality check". It was estimated that 4.5 million students suffer from alarmingly poor standards. Pornnipha Limpaphayom, the Secretary General for The Office of Basic Education Commission said she was not surprised so many schools seriously needed improvements. What was I to think? I am the only native English speaking teacher at Sathit Demonstration school in Nakhon Sawan. I teach 22 different classes in one week , some 800 students in all, ranging from pathom 1-6, and Mattayom 1-6 , so I get to see why this faliure to achieve quality is suffering. I try to give every student evaluations and a chance to use English, but I only have one hour per each class to do it in. The salary is very low as well, only 250 bhat per hour, with no medical insurance, no paid sick days, no paid holidays, and if there is a school function there is no payment for missed classes which can reduce my monthly salary to 16,000 bhat. Clearly this has been another reason I have considered leaving Thailand. I do not see how Thailand can possibly raise the standards of the students with such poor support for the teachers. I have also taught two years at Rajabhat University before I went to primary and secondary. I now can see why the University student's English is so poor or non existent. So, with that in mind I have had to decide between a warm and friendly Thai culture that has many moral values which are beneficial for a good life, against educating my child in America so that she has the ability to think for herself and know how to understand those higher values which are so important to a culture and the society it begets. Thailand is now battling with this very issue in its upper levels of government, and it's causing a lot of stress for the people.

A recent photograph of Na with Gada.

September 27, 2006 - Nakhon Sawan

This is the last entry into the journal from Thailand after a three year stay teaching English at Rajabhat University. It has been extremely interesting to live through the Thaksin Shinawatra goverment with the Thai Rak Thai party. In the end it took a military coup to oust him while he was in New York City preparing a speech for the United Nations General Assembly which he never gave. The King's 60 Anniversay to the accession to the throne was a visual high light witnessing the Royal Barge Ceremony on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok. It was an opportunity to see the legacy this King has left to Thailand. It has also been an opportunity to live in the presence of a monarchy. The Thai people love their king more than can be immediately understood by visiting Thailand for a few weeks or months. The educational system of Thailand has been an area I have devoted most of my energy. For what Thai students may lack in rigour in terms of scholarly pursuits, is balanced by a human nature that has been nurtured by a strong Buddhist presence. Thailand is a Buddhist country and the teachings of Lord Buddha are very influencial in the way Thai people react to the world. On a personal level I have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up into the Thai culture and play in the village with her brother and sister. I think being a father has opened up a whole new area for me in learning how to take care of children. My research with the influences of India on SE Asia has been one of the most stimulating paths of my life leading to a new understanding of the Hindu gods and their role in the creation story. Early morning readings for over 4 months at 6am to 7am with Stella Kramisch's "The Presence of Siva" has given me an entirely new perspective on India and the devotion to this Hindu god. V.S. Naipaul's works have been studied very carefully and have given me a rich tapestry by which to see India in my mind's eye. A recent article The Bamboo Galaxy and the Vedas attempts to explore the deeper meaning of the Vedas and the universe we live in. So, as I prepare for the United States I am seeing fighting between the secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and former president Bill Clinton, Preseident George W. Bush defending the release of a classified intelligence report on the Irag war and a host of other terrorist subjects which seem to dominate the American news media. I can only wonder what the mood will be like after three years of being away from my country.

I will think about my family, which will stay in Thailand, while I survey educational possibilities for my daughter and also a way for Na to come to America and experience how the land of the free is put together.

Willard with daughter Gada 4, Dow 9 and Dune7

October 8, 2006 - San Francisco

It was very difficult to say good bye to Na and Gada at the new Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, especially with Gada turning 4 years old on November 11th. I wrote a story about leaving titled: Saying Goodbye at Suvarnabhumi Airport I incuded in the story my impressions of the sculpture of the churning of the milky ocean which is inside the airport.

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But I decided to return to the USA to see if I could earn more money, which we need, to build a house on the land in Bangta-nagai. I saw the in-flight movie An Inconvenient Truth and was utterly shocked over the severity of the global situation which Al Gore so sensitively and compassionately demonstrated. Especially disconcerting was seeing that the United States produces the major percentage of carbon emmisions of all the countires in the world which in turn causes global warming. Al Gore's estimate for a devastating impact on the planets coast lines is less than 50 years away. With the floods and typoons already bringing damage to the environment in Thailand and China I can readily see how the effects of global warming has already begun. For those people who survived hurricane katrina I am sure they have taken stock about what is really happening on the planet.

Arriving on wed October 4th, and seeing San Francisco for the first time in three years, I could not help be struck by noticing the degree of sophistication on how the physical infrastructure has been put togehter, as compared to the infrastructure in Thailand. And then, I had to see the tragedy take place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the sex scandal in the white house, and the tension building up with N. Korea.

It all seems so very tenuous, this life of ours, these days. Many of my friends are telling me how badly our government has managed the war in Iraq.

Being here is definitely going to take some adjusting to, but I know there are innovations in technology that I can learn from and take back to Thailand, especially advances in how to use the internet in education to instill in the students a sense of crtical thinking in their minds. Students in SE Asia need more opportunities on how to develop their opinions about their own social and political environment so they can see the dangers that face them in the future if they neglect the environment, which they are, or the way their leaders are treating it today. Now, the United States definitely needs a new political direction, and it must take the lead and show how decisive management by all sectors of society must be initiated before the scenario, which Al Gore is presenting to the world in his film does not happen.

It's important to realize that the information that Gore is presenting is very real, and global warming is going to impact the entire planet even more unless our species can stop the cause which is creating this impending disaster. I'm afraid, however, that everyone will continue using resources blindly until it is too late. Fortunately, the measures that have been passed into law in California by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday Sept. 27th was a law which would establish a sweeping global warming initiative that imposes the nation's first cap on greenhouse gas emissions, saying the effort kicks off "a bold new era of environmental protection". Every nation, every state, and eventually every person must in some way change how to best protect and use our resourses, and that is the hardest thing of all to learn how to do.

November 1, 2006 - Sebastopol, CA

I thought it would be interesting to see the village of Bang Ta Ngai in Thailand where I live. This picture can be found on Google Map

November 27, 2006 - Sebastopol, CA

I have been in the United States now for almost two months. Being based in the San Francisco Bay area I have been listening to KPFA radio at 94.1FM and the news that is presented is alarming. The news media in the United States is by all accounts controlled and KPFA is one of the few windows to independent journalism that offers an insight into how the present administation is functioning in the world. What I am hearing is far worse than I thought and I can only wonder what will befall this country if it maintains the course it has set for itself. Noam Chomsky from MIT has a 110 minute video on the internet of a lecture he presented at MIT which is the most revealing lecture of the current situation in the Middle East.
Today I visited Wat Mahabuddhaphumi in Santa Rosa, California where I re-united with Phramaha Buasai Panyavajiro acting president.

Buasai, president, has bought a house where the new temple is now located on 2714 Iroquois Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, Tel. 707 546 9506,email:
I will attend the Sunday chantings and meditation and plan on donating a bronze Buddha statue which I brouhgt back from Thailand for the altar. Currently I am teaching at Dominican University in San Rafael at the ELS Language Center. It is a beautiful campus and the students are primarily from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea.

December 30, 2006 - Santa Rosa, California

The new year begins in one more day and I suppose this is as good a time as ever to reflect on 2006 and make some resolutions for 2007. I think it has been more difficult than I thought to resume my work in the United States. Teaching at the ELS Language Center at Dominican University of California is the strongest continuity from teaching in Thailand. However, the financial compensation has yet to be enough and with my return ticket ending in a few more months I have to wonder if I would find a way to stay or to leave. One thing is certain, I have less time to pursue my research to complete my book, as I had done in Thailand. But I have been able to do some research but not nearly enough to begin adding to my chapter on Vadavamukha. The Cambodian TESOL conference is in Feb 23-24 and my paper on "Teaching Conversational English to Thai students" has been accepted so I am very interested in delivering that paper. From Phnom Penh I would see if I could go to Sambor Pre Kuk and then back to the village. Na on the otherhand wants to visit America and I do not have the resources to make that possible.

After listening to Thom Hartmann, radio talk show host from Oregon, I question a lot about what is happening in America. On the one hand life in America seems prosperous and on the other hand is difficult to maintain a level of economic comfort. On top of those daily issues the larger political environment seems to be falling apart. My role as a father and a provider seems to be the crux of my concerns at this time, and trying to decide how best to provide a future for my daughter is what I think about a lot.

Thailand's political situation is no better and the educational infrastructure of Thailand seems to be failing apart. The Ministry of Education is making new rules making it difficulkt for foriegn teachers to teach in Thailand. However, with my continued honing of my ESL skills I think I could add appreciably to the educational system in Thailand and perhaps be in a better postion to guide Gada and Dow and Dune into a better school. The Thai culture is very developed and even though there are wishes to better the whole educational system of Thailand I think there are many problems. Developing a career and being able to determine what it is you want to do in life is a choice that can only be developed by understanding your own potential and what you want to do with it. So these issues weigh heavy on my mind, and I want to be instrumental in giving guidance for this growth with the kids. My own growth is also in question as I try and bridge two cultures and two vastly different cultures. It's not easy, but I seem to want to do it.

So as the new year approaches the news in the world at this time is the funerals of Gerald Ford, James Brown, and Saddam Hussein. The breaking of an ice shelf in the arctic, the French space probe to seek out new planets, and the on going drama with Iran, Israel,Palestine and Iraq.

For me its going to be how to turn my own situation into a growth situation, and at the same time be able to help not only my own family but students who desire to learn and express themselves. I will publish my book this year for certain and would also like to publish a small book on my Thailand Short Stories.

A list of useful links and books concerning how to think and live in a new future world.


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