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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Thailand celebrates Chakri Day, April 6th
Seabees provide aid to patients with AIDS
Amazing Family Travel
The piano man and his friends
Yeeh haah! Ride ‘em cowboy!
“Stovies” rediscovered!

Seabees provide aid to patients with AIDS

by JO2 Sharon M. Dewar
Pacific Navigator Staff

RAYONG, Thailand (NNS) — They didn’t know what to expect when their plane touched down in Thailand. The unfamiliar territory itself was overwhelming, but where they were headed, and what they would soon see, would perhaps change their lives forever.

f21.jpg (23188 bytes)Photo: Father John and friends dig into a well-deserved chow line.

Eighteen Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Three were on their way to the Camillian Social Center in the city of Rayong. The group had been hand picked to carryout a mission like none the Seabees had ever known. After being fully briefed on the project’s details, and given the option to back out without any repercussion — all 18 volunteered to fulfill it.

The mission: Living and working for a month and a half within an AIDS community.

The project was part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 98 exercise in Thailand. The center, which is home to approximately 38 HIV and AIDS patients, needed a second story addition constructed on a building. The Seabees from Guam "rogered up" to the project.

"At first I just kept thinking — what did I get myself into?" reminisced Petty Officer 1st Class Jose Cervantes.

Many of the Seabees undoubtedly felt the same unease and uncertainty before actually starting the project and meeting the patients within the center.

"Father (Giovanni Contrarin) John, who runs the center, was pushing us a little - wanting us to eat with the patients when we first got there. I was scared out of my mind — even the chef had AIDS," said Petty Officer 1st Class Corey Heinrich, crew leader. "But after a couple weeks, I was more than willing to eat with them."

Petty Officer 3rd Class Rick Markland, the team’s cook agreed. "I felt really indifferent about everything at first. I had never done anything like that before," he said. "I didn’t want to work in the kitchen with the center’s cook, but it didn’t take long for my outlook to totally change."

Many attitudes changed for the Seabees, perhaps because the face of AIDS is changing. "A lot of the patients were small, innocent children," said Cervantes. "There was a mother with a two-month-old baby — both of them had AIDS."

Markland remembered a little boy who was inflicted with the disease along with both his parents. The mother had already died. "One little girl named Oong especially touched our hearts," said LT John White, officer-in-charge of the team. "She was raped when she was 10 years old by her HIV infected father. She became infected by the virus and is only expected to live a few more months."

The Camillian Social Center was opened in December 1995 to give people like Oong a home and a community who accepts them. "Father John has set up the center so it has a family atmosphere," said White. "Each individual finds a place in this family and pulls their own weight."

When the community first opened its doors, it was home to only six patients. Today there are 38 patients and a very long waiting list. "With the rapid growth in the number of people with the virus, the center desperately needed expansion to accommodate the increasing number of patients," explained White. "The second story addition will allow Father John to accept 25 new patients."

"We did something that will benefit them for a very long time," said Heinrich. What the Seabees did benefited the patients not only because of the construction work, but also, according to some, their mere presence made a world of difference.

"Most of the patients go to the clinic just to die - they’re homeless and feel they have nothing to try to live for. But I think our presence had a big impact on them," said Cervantes. "We were fun and full of life, and that is what those patients needed."

"Father John even pointed that out to us," Markland agreed. "The patients were more active and alive while we were there, and he said our high spirits definitely helped them."

Heinrich said living and working in the community also had another benefit — it showed the community in Rayong that it’s okay to be around people with AIDS.

"I remember when we first got there we were walking from a nearby store to the community center, and an old man who was watching us started yelling, ‘Don’t go there! There’s AIDS in there!’" said Heinrich. "And that’s pretty much the way the people reacted in Thailand. They’re afraid to go anywhere near the clinic. Looking back, I probably would have been just like that man, but after meeting those people and working on the project, I see things very differently now."

When the project was complete, the clinic benefited from the construction work, the patients benefited from the Seabees kindness, and the lives of many of those Seabees were forever changed. "It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience," said Markland.

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Amazing Family Travel

Thailand is an amazing destination with culture, food, shopping and fun for the whole family. Travel throughout the Kingdom is comfortable and easy. Whether you travel by air, rail, bus, car, tuk tuk or elephant, the journey is bound to be filled with fascinating sights and sounds.

The fun begins with Bangkok where there is an endless supply of entertainment, in the city and its suburbs.

Just outside the capital city and accessible by car or bus, are a number of theme parks. Siam Water Park is a popular destination where families can go to cool off on the slides and in the artificial surf. There is a man-made sea, with whirlpools, fountains and waterfalls, and towering water slides amid carefully landscaped gardens. Satellite attractions include children’s playgrounds, aviaries, an open zoo and botanical gardens.

Another theme park is Safari World, covering 170 acres. This park is divided into two parts. The first part is Safari Park with a variety of animals in their natural habitat. Visitors can drive through in their own cars or in one of the park’s air conditioned buses. The second part of Safari World is the Marine Park, exhibiting marine life and rare animals. Special performances can be seen of trained animals including dolphins, birds, seals and monkeys. Safari World also has restaurants and game shops as well as a tram service available for touring the park.

There are other parks, including Dream World, Magicland and others which have rides, games and gardens with picnic areas.

Bangkok also has a number of museums displaying unique artifacts and some interesting treasures. The National Museum provides visitors with a concise history of the Thai people from their evolutionary beginnings through the reigns of Thailand’s sovereigns.

Thailand also has no less than 53 national parks located throughout the country from the far north to the south. These parks are home to rare wildlife and spectacular scenery. Most of the parks are best visited by car or boat, though tours to the more accessible parks are available. Many of the national parks offer accommodation for visitors, in the form of a simple lodge or bungalow. Bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts will enjoy the parks’ natural beauty, with limestone peaks, waterfalls, hilltribe groups and plenty of hiking trails.

Children will find the entire Kingdom is a virtual zoo, with animals everywhere. Animals have always been an inseparable part of Thai life, at work, at play, at home or in the wild. Thai literature is full of animal characters and animal sayings are used in almost every conversation.

Some of the most popular animals that have long been part of every day life, both in wartime and in peace. Elephants were used for their power in times of war and in times of peace to help with brunt work, buffaloes to tend the fields and monkeys to harvest coconuts.

Some animals are regarded with superstition. Elephants, again, and Siamese cats are thought to bring good fortune in their different ways. Lizards are also good luck. Setting some animals free - birds, turtles and fish - is supposed to bring good fortune.

Besides the animals, children will enjoy some of Thailand’s favorite sports. The number one sport, Muay Thai or Thai boxing is an age old art that continues to captivate audiences today. The events involve a great deal of ancient rituals and tradition.

Another Thai sport and martial art is Krabi Krabong, sword fighting. This sport is now mainly performed at festivals and as part of ancient ritual demonstrations.

Watching a takraw match is as much fun as baseball. The small rattan ball is passed around in circles with incredible displays of skill. People play in the parks on weekends.

In fact, a walk through Bangkok’s Lumpini Park is a great way to see many of these popular sports in practice. When you get tired of walking around you can rent a paddle boat and cruise around the pond with ducks and swans following your boat.

For those who prefer a beach holiday, or are accompanying their spouse on a business trip, need not worry about bringing children along. Many of the hotels and resorts throughout the kingdom now offer child care facilities and activities for children of all ages.

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The piano man and his friends

by Mirin MacCarthy

The cold war is over, Pestroika has produced a piano man for Pattaya. Ramil Medyarov from Russia is now at the keyboards.

Ramil has joined forces with an American saxophonist and drummer Elder Van Patrick and Filippina singer-guitarist Janette Oracion to form the "East Coast Band" that now plays at Delaney’s Irish Pub five nights a week. "East Coast" because they all came from the East Coast of their home country!

f4.jpg (19343 bytes)Photo: (L to R) Ramil, Janette and Elder.

It is a long haul from Russia to Pattaya, even by plane! It is also a long haul to become an accomplished professional musician. Ramil was an obviously gifted child, playing the Bayan (button accordion) at age four, an age when most children can hardly even lift it! His serious music studies commenced two years later. "I started to study in Music School for Kids and after high school I went to the conservatory for five years."

Ramil enrolled at the Ufa Conservatory of Arts, majoring in traditional Russian instruments, still playing the Bayan accordion, keyboards, piano and guitar, teaching music and conducting Russian folk orchestra. He spent the next two years playing keyboards and conducting with the Kunashiry company, then his career really took off when he started to play with the famous jazz band "Doostar."

Ramil and the Doostar’s joined in festivals and concert tours worldwide from Russia, Georgia, Poland, Germany, America, Africa and Ethiopia. Together they recorded 17 LP’s.

Then five years ago Ramil was invited to come to Thailand. This was the formation of the first Russian band in Pattaya.

Meanwhile, Elder had been around in Bangkok playing for five years and that’s where he and Ramil met up. They just jammed together one afternoon, liked the sound and immediately started working. The duo were playing together for three years but kicked this band off sixteen months ago when Janette started singing with them.

Janette left her East Coast of the Philippines ten years ago. Her father was a good guitarist and she grew up listening to him playing all the old standards. Music is in her soul. "I sing from the heart and I like what I’m doing." She also gives credit to Ramil and Elder. "I learn from these two guys, they are genius musicians."

Genius or not, Elder left his school in Philadelphia at thirteen. "To go on the road as soon as I could drive. I played with my cousins in Providence, Chapter One." He later returned to school and studied saxophone with Dennis Sandolini for eight years. "He was an Italian from 52nd Street days. Sandolini was a real maestro, he knew everything from classical to honky tonk, James Moody, Tom MacIntosh, Quincy Jones. He taught me a lot about people too. You don’t have to give lip service, just play your horn and the music will come out of it. If anyone asks what kind of a musician you are just say you are a modern exponent of improvisation."

Ramil advises young musicians to, "Listen to more and more music, originals not copies. Analyze the structure of the composition. People learn and study by themselves, if they want to learn they will."

Elder says the same, "Listen, learn the scales and chords, get all you can out of it. Don’t follow one person, learn from everything from classical to jazz."

Janette’s advice is: "Create your own style. Don’t let fame go to your head, just remember where you came from."

So what do our red hot jazz musicians listen to? Surprise, surprise, Ramil’s favourite listening music is jazz. "I love jazz, Bee Bop Standards, Funky, Yellow Jackets." Elder says, "My mainstay is what they call Jazz. I call it People Music, creative music. Grover Washington Jr., Ronnie Laws, the Crusaders, John Coltrane, Charlie Faulkner - those kind of players. I still say Coltrane because he never stopped learning, never stopped searching his horn for new avenues, new ways to play, always creating and recreating. They were influential to me, and also my Great-Great Uncle Fats Waller. I traced him through the family tree. I even look like him, that happy jolly guy he was. Top hat and all those vaudeville days."

But despite being through and through muso’s they also have made music their business life too. As Ramil says, "Music is like a well, when you get one level you must think about another level. Right now with Elder and Janette we are thinking about making our new project a CD."

Elder adds, "This CD will be something people on holiday here can take back to their own country and play it and remember us. At the same time it is an entry into the big studios. Making music is about promotion and dollars and cents too, not just about sound. There are many ways you can go with a CD. Maybe get signed to a major company, do an original, which would put us on that other level we were talking about."

Ramil, Elder and Janette have certainly come from very different backgrounds and have arrived here in Pattaya from very different routes. We are lucky to have such talented people in our midst. Don’t miss seeing them play! When you hear that big sound booming out of Delaney’s, you can bet the East Coast is sockin’ it to ‘em! Yeah man!

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Yeeh haah! Ride ‘em cowboy!

The Rodeo’s in town! Well, at least the bucking bronco is here, in a new fun restaurant on the Pattaya-Naklua Road. Called the Wild Bull Rodeo Restaurant, it is the brain-child of Khun Luanprang and Hermann Stoehr.

K. Luanprang and Hermann attended a festival in Germany that featured these mechanical monster bulls - 100 of them to be exact. Now there are only 99 because they bought one and imported it to Thailand with the intentions of setting it up in a restaurant somewhere. And where better than in fun city Pattaya?

The mechanical bucking bull has pride of place in the restaurant, living in its own "corral" outside. At the opening last week, the first to ride the bull was Khun Tanakorn, the attorney the family used to assist in setting up the restaurant.

f5.jpg (29337 bytes)Photo: Khun Tanakorn rides the bull.

The rules for riding the bronco are simple. You can hold on with only one hand and if you have to use two hands to steady yourself you are out. If you fall off you are out even quicker.

The mechanical bull has 9 levels of "fury" and the Wild Bull Rodeo Restaurant has made a magnificent offer. Stay on right the way through to the end of level 9 and you win 2000 Baht. Now here’s a restaurant where you could come home with more money than you went with! If you are good enough, that is!

The restaurant serves German, Thai and American food with Carlsberg beer on tap plus the usual range of bottled beverages. The Pattaya Mail’s Dining Out Team will visit this new restaurant and you will be able to read their critique in a few weeks.

For those with an eye to statistics - the mechanical bull cost more than 500,000 Baht and weighs more than 500 kg. If you want to try for the 2000 Baht prize, the wild bull is waiting!

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“Stovies” rediscovered!

Many years ago, in the wild and cold Highlands of Scotland, a certain little boy’s favourite meal was a potato dish called "stovies". This was made with bacon, onion and cheese and chopped potato, fried on the griddle over the open fire in the hearth. It was a hearty and nutritious meal and just so-o-o flavoursome.

That little boy was me and it has been probably 45 years since I had some of Mum’s "stovies". Well, that was until last week when the Dining Out Team went to the Deutsches Haus Restaurant on Beach Road. There, hidden in the menu, was my "stovies"! Called "Bratkartoffeln" by the German speaking world, but it was "stovies" just the same, all fried and flavoursome. It was worth it for me to go to Deutsches Haus just for that dish on its own.

Deutsches Haus is, as its name implies, a German restaurant. It has been a leading place for the German foodies in Pattaya for many years now but it has been some time since the Dining Out Team paid a visit.

The décor is in line with owner Dieter’s other love - deep sea fishing. Lining the walls are numerous fishing rods with the trophies they have caught mounted above them. This includes some 300 kg of grouper. A rather large fish.

The menu is also large. Starting with soups and moving on to a sausage selection between 70 - 120 Baht, it goes into a good selection of mains (90 - 190 Baht) including giant pork knuckle and pork chops. Schnitzel and steaks range between 150 - 230 Baht, fish dishes generally between 120 - 160 Baht, a kids corner (40 - 80 Baht) with dishes named after Disney characters followed by a selection of home made desserts and strudels.

f6.jpg (23070 bytes)We selected Erbensen Eintopf mit Wurstchen (pea soup with sausage) to be followed by roast pork and champignons and Gulasch Schussel (a thick goulash with boiled potatoes).

The pea soup was smooth and strongly flavoured, but the sausage "log" floating in it seemed a little bizarre, but pleasant enough. Our mains were large, hot and very nice. The boiled potatoes were done to perfection. Plenty of gravy for the pork and I was almost replete - until out came the Bratkartoffeln. I could hardly believe my eyes! "Stovies", just like mother’s!

At this stage in the evening we usually try to make some room for the desserts. Not this time. As a fine example of gluttony I ordered another plate of the Bratkartoffeln. Forgive me Dieter, I couldn’t help myself. 45 years is a long time between servings of "stovies". At least I now no longer have to wait that long again.

For the lovers of European food, the Deutsches Haus should be on your list. Traditional fare, good servings and not expensive. We’ll be back.

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Copyright 1998 Pattaya Mail Publishing Co.Ltd.
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