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 31 December 2003

Dear Friends,

Our second year in Thailand is already well on its way and we are using every opportunity to see as much of the country as we can. The logistics, by road, train or air, are excellent and most destinations are easy to reach. When we travel, often the Thai tourists are in the majority and we are the only "farang" in  boat of bus. 


Earlier this year, together with a group of the museum volunteers under guidance of a French professor in Thailogy in general and Buddhism in particular, we visited pre-historical and Buddhist sites in northern Thailand.  We made also an excursion to Pimai and over Christmas we biked from temple to temple in Sukhothai and surrounds. We regularly spend the weekend on the beach in Hua Hin, Pataya or Koh Samet and last month we went on "home stay" not far from Bangkok watching the fire flies.

We in front of a Buddha statue in 700 year old ruins near Sukhothai. The style of Buddha images from the Sukhothaise period is charachterized by the 'flame" on the head, the somewhat fatty neck, the half lotus position and the robe flap, like a fish tail, reaching the navel. These statues have a inner core of brick or laterite block masonry, and are modeled to the final shape with chalk mortar.

The hat is ours, the dog ain't.


Laura started this year the secondary school of "Patana" and has two great friends. Usually she enjoys going to school,  but making homework is no fun. At school she now also has   Spanish lessons and guitar lessons and after school classes for the Dutch school and the past trimester she did a course in "wall climbing". Her favorite TV programme is "fingertips" where all kind of art and crafts tricks and tips are demonstrated, she loves reading in Dutch or English and she looks forward to the weekly "Donald Duck" that is sent by her Grandma from the Netherlands. Laura loves animals and the dogs "Dikkie en Banjer" can usually be found in her room when she is home.

Worshippers have rubbed gold foil on the statue, hoping by doing so to gain merit or to become more lucky in getting what they desire

The Buddha statue on the left, and also the one above, shows the gesture "subdues Mara ", depicting the moment when prince Siddarta was tempted from his spiritual path by the demon king Mara, who represents sensual pleasures and worldly desires. Deep in meditation, Gautama touches the earth, calling the Earth goddess Thoranee to witness of all the good deeds during his previous lives. The Earth goddess appears and wrings the water from her hair and every drop that falls represents one act of merit performed by Gautama in his previous lives, causing a great current sweeping away Mara, his army and his three daughters  Desire, Passion and Lust.   In Thailand this configuration is very popular for Buddha statues.


Kees is traveling to the countries in the region for about two months a year. On the right, he is labouring in Timor-Leste (East Timor for you guys), the most recent tender leaf on the tree of nations. I was here 'on mission"  to investigate how it is possible that the UNICEF surveys show rather different results (way to high) on the number of kids that complete primary school than that the governemnts or the local UNICEF office think that is correct. The mission could not create any clarity in this issue; all children that we revisited, where indeed attending school, confirming the results of the survey.

An Australian UNICEF colleague from Dilli, me, the Timorese staff member of the Statistical Bureau, the interpreter, a Japanese UNICEF colleague, plus gang of kids, not all from the same family.


Kees is here "facilitator' at a workshop in Hanoi. 

My experience of many years with UNICEF is made to use in training colleagues from other country offices in planning programmes, lately following the "Results  Based Management" methodology. That is not really within the job description of a Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, but it keeps the job varied.
In general, life in Bangkok is quite OK. The Thai people are all extraordinarily friendly, we love going out for dinner in one of the many restaurants and there are plenty of opportunities for weekend trips or short holidays. The dense traffic and the concrete, and the sheer scale of the city are still difficult to accept and sometimes we think back with nostalgia about the provincial towns of our previous countries of residence. We still live in the little posh neighbourhood at the outskirts of Bangkok, and although we contemplate from time to time to move more down town, at this moment we appreciate too much the tranquility and relatively clean air and our daily breakfasts in the garden to really start looking for houses in the center of Bangkok.

Coquilles St.Jacques, Thai style


Minke teaches at St.Andrews International School the youngest children. It is a small school with only five classes and the school is located close to our house. A big advantage of this work is, that Minke enjoys the same school hours and holidays as Laura. Unfortunately, too little time is left for the de museum volunteers, as the activities are usually planned during the working week.

Minke's pupils dressed up as little angles for the Christmas play.

Minke keeps on continuing with Thai lessons with a small group of women and she is now able to have simple conversations in Thai and even starts to tackle the incredible Thai alphabet. She is very committed to mastering even better the Thai language in spoken and written form.