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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chinese Vegetarian Festival - Nine Day Fast Cleanses Body and Spirit

RI President proclaims: Mankind Is Our Business

Royal Garden Plaza celebrates 9th anniversary with B80 million in renovatins and a grand party

Duangjai Samaksamarn visits Pattaya’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

Ripley’s Screaming Contest 2001 Shakes the Planet

Mid-Life Crisis - And All That Jazz

Chinese Vegetarian Festival - Nine Day Fast Cleanses Body and Spirit

Paying homage at the Chinese temple

The chairman of the Sawang Boriboon Foundation, Prasit Chawalilt-Nittitham, opened the annual Chinese Vegetarian Festival on the afternoon of October 16 at the Sawang Boriboon Rescue Foundation Center in Naklua.

Chinese opera was part of the beauty of the festival

According to the Chinese calendar the annual festival occurs in late September or October and continues for nine days as devout followers of the Chinese tradition refrain from eating meats of any kind. Close observance is thought to cleanse both the spirit and body with additional hopes of bringing good fortune.

Drums and gongs kept the beat

A variety of spirits and ghosts, along with supernatural beings from above and below are mixed in with the festival and nine day fast. Many areas around Thailand can witness ascetic feats performed by many of the followers with practitioners walking on burning embers and others piercing their body with sharp instruments.

Dressed in white, devout followers escorted the spirits through the streets of Naklua on the opening day of the annual Chinese Vegetarian Festival.

In Pattaya the festival began following temple ceremonies, and a parade that wound its way through the streets of Naklua beginning at the Sawang Boriboon Rescue Foundation Center. The participants numbered more than a thousand, and with most clad in white clothing, they escorted the various deities through the streets.

The festival ended on October 25.

Thousands lit huge incense candles and prayed

Cleansing the soul

The smoke from the incense was a little much for this youngster
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RI President proclaims: Mankind Is Our Business

An uncommon evening with an uncommon man *

by Rotarian Peter Cummins,
Rotary Club of Bangkok South

The Kings came to Bangkok last week and there were more than 2000 loyal “subjects” gathered at the Queen Sirikit Centre to greet them, give them tribute and to celebrate their ‘kingdom’.

Rotary International President Richard D. King and First Lady Cherie flew into Bangkok to a tumultuous welcome from almost every Rotary Club in Thailand and even a Rotary group from neighbouring Cambodia, late last week.

The young and dashing future RI President as he appeared on the front cover of Entertainment Weekly

The Jomtien-Pattaya and the newly chartered Taksin-Pattaya Rotary Clubs, along with many others from the Eastern Seaboard were in evidence and contributed much to the evening’s festivities.

The personable, erudite president, the 91st of the line since Rotary was founded in 1905, obviously enjoyed the extremely well-organized event and as Rotarian Veli-Matti Kaikonnen of the Jomtien-Pattaya Club pointed out, “It was an evening of good feeling and fellowship certainly enhanced by the friendly and relaxed attitude of the president and his wife,” with the ambience ranging from semi-official, to jocular to musical.

(L to R) Eino-Markku Haapalehto of the Rotary Club of Helsinki-Katajanokka, Rotary International President-elect Bhichai Rattakul and Veli-Matti Kaikonnen of the Jomtien-Pattaya Rotary Club

Starting with the traditional Flag Ceremony of the streaming of the Thai, US and Rotary banners, Past District Governor Noraseth Pathmanand, chairman of the event’s organizing committee, warmly welcomed President and Cherie King and was himself honoured by a presidential citation, the “Regal Eagle” plaque for outstanding service - only the second person to be so honoured during President King’s tenure. And who was the other: the Pope John Paul II! PDG Noraseth has arranged, “The best organized meeting of my career,” the president announced, on presenting the award.

President King strongly commended President-elect Bhichai Rattakul, the First Thai national to be so elevated, who he will succeed the incumbent from July 1, 2002 until 30 June 2003.

RI President King enjoys a moment with the Interact Club of Banglamung.

A delighted audience heard the president break into, “I left my heart in San Francisco”, which set the tone for what was to come during the evening. Well before his numerous Rotary commitments, President Richard was a member of the Actors Equity, the union for performers, and his singing talent, so clearly demonstrated last week at Bangkok, was strongly supported by his abilities as an actor, where his penchant for comedy landed him roles in such landmark musicals as “Oklahoma”, “South Pacific” and Damon Runyan’s marvellous comedy, “Guys and Dolls”. The evening, due to the charm and charisma of Richard and Cherie, was one that the hundreds of Rotarians who had the good fortune to attend will always cherish.

RI President King visits with members of the Rotary Club of Taksin-Pattaya.

He is the complete embodiment of Rotary and Rotary ideals. He was born to be president, though in a somewhat different guise. When his father George moved to Canada to work, and in November, 1938, with his first son about to be born, King senior opted for Richard to be born the other side of the border and returned to Illinois, so King junior would be born on US soil and could become the President of the United States. With his infectious sense of humour Richard has often said, “I chose to become President of Rotary instead.”

Even the graceful and lovely Cherie was destined to live life as a Rotary Ann. A professional dancer in a troupe, which Richard had hired to perform at a fund-raiser - for Rotary, of course - Cherie, although holding a degree in economics and business from California State, stayed with the dance group for 10 years. This beautiful lady should be married to a Rotarian, Richard surmised and married to a Rotarian she was, is and always will be!

Rotary International President Richard D. King and lovely First Lady Cherie.

You know,” Richard told the gathering, “public speaking has not always been easy; it does not necessarily become second nature to everyone.” He recalled addressing a group in Mozambique. A small boy approached him later and there was Richard, pen poised, ready to sign an autograph for this admirer. It did not quite turn out that way: “Excuse me, Sir,” said the little fellow, “but that was the worst speech I have ever heard.”

Not one to be flustered, Richard merely smiled and thought, “What does this kid know anyway?” A day later, with another group, Richard spotted the same boy. “Ah, his mother has sent him along to apologize,” Richard surmised. Not quite, again! “At the age of 10, how do you know what is a good speech; how can you judge?” asked Richard, soliciting a reply from the boy. “I do not know,” said the lad, “I am only repeating what everybody else said.”

Listening to the president last week one could only think, to use an American expression: “You’ve come a long way since then, baby!”

The evening also featured a “Mankind is our business” display of performing Thai artists and featured, among a number of cultural interludes, the famous “Angel Dance”.

“Mankind is our Business” is the theme close to the president’s heart and which he has adopted for his tenure, a guidepost he “borrowed” from Charles Dickens immortal story, “A Christmas Carol”. The flint-hearted Scrooge, in the story, is visited by the ghost of his erstwhile partner who has been relegated to an after-life of regret for his heartless and selfish behaviour while alive. Scrooge tries to reassure his former partner, saying “But you were always a good man of business.” The ghost replies: “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business.”

What could be more appropriate for the New Millennium with the injustices and inhumanity prevalent, than this all-embracing concept which President King has adopted as the Rotary ideal, counselling “let it not be the fate of any Rotarian to live with regret for humanitarian actions not taken: ‘Mankind IS our Business’.”

But, the show was not over; far from it! The singer-cum-entertainer characteristic took over, and it was not long before the stage was packed with District Governors, Rotary Presidents - past and present - Rotarians and many guests, singing along with the R.I. President.

Fortunately for Richard and Cherie, there was no plane to catch that night for, although the ‘show’ was scheduled to end, following the presentation of a memento in true Thai style, it was almost an hour before the charming couple actually reached the exit. So many hands to shake, so many photos to be taken with the president, so many pleasantries to be exchanged!

It was, indeed, a “night to remember” for all, including, I feel sure, Rotary International President Richard and Rotary Ann Cherie King.

* The phrase, “uncommon man” has been taken from Paul J Sandas, Past RI Director, article on President King in “The Rotarian” (July, 2001).

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Royal Garden Plaza celebrates 9th anniversary with B80 million in renovations and a grand party

To the strains of Johann Straus played by a symphony orchestra, Bill Heinecke, the CEO of the Royal Garden Plaza and the Minor Group network of companies, accompanied Khunying Phankhruah Yongchaiyuth, the wife of the deputy prime minister and minister of defense, Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, on a blue carpeted stroll through the newly revamped Royal Garden Plaza.

Khunying Phankhruah Yongchaiyuth cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony to get the festivities underway.

Upgraded with 80 million baht in renovations, which were completed in October, the shopping center boasts big name international clients to fuel the shopping sprees expected from the projected 30,000 people who will walk through the center each day.

Bill Heinecke (left), the CEO of the Royal Garden Plaza and the Minor Group network of companies, receives a bouquet of congratulations from Khunying Phankhruah Yongchaiyuth, the wife of the deputy prime minister and minister of defense, Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyuth.

Established in 1993, the Royal Garden Plaza covers almost 40,000 square meters and encompasses three floors of retail shopping with fashion, fast food, restaurants and entertainment outlets.

The Royal Garden Plaza’s 9th Anniversary celebrations began on October 20 when Khunying Phankhruah Yongchaiyuth cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony. The length of ribbon stretched from the front doors on Beach Road all the way through the inside of the plaza to the fountain court, where Dr. Sax Chamber’s symphony orchestra was playing.

Forming a human set of stairs

The celebrations included a parade passing in front of the entrance, a fashion show put on by the B B Sar Boutique, with renowned models presenting a collection from Blue and White Night Celebrate, traditional Thai dance, and of course cake and champagne.

On October 23, the celebrations continued with acrobatics, cheerleading and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum screaming contest.

The Royal Garden Plaza and its customers can look forward to a bright ninth “shopping” year ahead.

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Duangjai Samaksamarn visits Pattaya’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

On September 5, 1952, a beautiful baby girl was born to the Samaksamarn family in Surin Province. They named her Duangjai. To her family and neighbors, she was a perfect child; happy and healthy with just one difference - her strangely large hands and arms. Her parents believed everything was normal but as she grew older, her hands and arms grew larger. And they kept growing and growing.

William E. Heinecke (right) and Vichai Lertlitrichai (left) presented Duangjai with a certificate documenting her extraordinary hands.

No one realized that her oversized hands and arms were caused by a hormone imbalance. Hoping to right the wrong, she had two operations, one when she was 25 and another 5 years later. The operations proved to be disastrous. Instead of stopping the growth, they activated the cells causing the arms and hands to grow even larger.

Despite her physical drawback, Duangjai leads a happy, normal life. She used to sell noodles, and sometimes the villagers would hire her to help when their pigs were having difficulty giving birth.

Now at 49, with hands and arms weighing more than 10 kilograms each and still growing, Duangjai lives with her parents and 4 other younger brothers and sisters in a small village, running a grocery store at home and working the rice fields from time to time.

On October 20, William E. Heinecke, the owner of the Pattaya Royal Garden Plaza and CEO of the Minor Group Network of companies, and Vichai Lertlitrichai, PR manager of Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, presented Duangjai with a certificate documenting her extraordinary hands.

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Ripley’s Screaming Contest 2001 Shakes the Planet

As part of the Royal Garden Plaza’s 9th anniversary celebrations, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum organized a screaming contest on October 23, and the noises produced could have woke the dead.

Chotchai Chetanasamrytchot belts out his winning scream

Held by the fountain on the ground floor, the screams emanating from the contestants could be heard throughout the plaza, and truly “shook the planet”.

Contestants were judged on loudness, uniqueness and how long the scream prevailed. Electronic equipment was used to measure the decibel level andx length of each shriek. Five judges totaled the points.

Contestants competed for cash prizes and the distinctive honor of being the best screamer in Pattaya. They were also able to alleviate any stress or personal hostilities in the process.

Thinkorn Wonganu was voted a media favorite

After 30 contestants wailed away, the winning scream, measured at 102 decibels and continuing for a total of 3 minutes 59 seconds, came from Chotchai Chetanasamrytchot, a 39-year-old resident from Bangkok. Judges were impressed by his technique and uniqueness and after the air cleared he was presented the B10,000 cash prize, the winning trophy and a certificate from Ripley’s Believe It or Not designating the rare distinction.

Adirek Phutwisedsan screamed 2nd best and was awarded a trophy and certificate with a 5,000 baht cash prize.

Thinkorn Wonganu, a local student from Pattaya City School 8, was voted a favorite among the news media, and for his efforts he received a trophy, a 3,000 baht cash prize, and the certificate denoting the rare distinction.

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Mid-Life Crisis - And All That Jazz

by Peter Cummins

Having worked for that marvellous ‘organ’ of the Eastern Seaboard, the Pattaya Mail for several years, I became aware of a rather numerous geriatric population in Pattaya. No; not at the Mail itself for, apart from myself and the venerable Dr. Iain who is comparatively ‘young’, the rest are all too young to have experienced a mid-life crisis. Even managing director, Peter Malhotra, is too young to know!

This is the first of a two-part story about one man’s mid-life crisis. The second section will be a hilarious look at how some men cope and some men DO NOT cope with this phase of life.

The Swinging Sixties...

“When I am old and am losing my hair, many years from now/Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, a bottle of wine?/If I’ve been out ‘til a quarter to four, would you lock the door?/Will you still need me, would you still feed me/WHEN I’M 64?”

These prophetic lyrics of the Beatles, extracted from their album “Sergeant Pepper”, were among the thousands which they produced throughout the “Swinging Sixties”. However, as a raw “youth” of 35 then, struggling to survive the tough environment of New York City, the mere thought of ever being 64 was just a remote possibility on some far horizon. Frankly, I thought all the rest of these hypothetical projections would remain in place, but that I would never make it through to 64.

Here is PC before his MLC

Quite the contrary happened. Apart from now “being old and losing my hair” and having always been convinced that I was “born old”, I reached 64 two years ago - and it was not that much of a shock.

Of course, all the rest of the Beatles’ suppositions have long gone. The Valentines and birthday greetings, pathetic at best, ceased almost as soon as they started. Bottles of wine I can find on a supermarket shelf. Staying out until “a quarter to four”.\ - forget it - door locked or not! Certainly, “Nobody needs me; nobody feeds me - and now I’m 66!”

But along the way, I have had the distinction of joining that burgeoning army of males who have reached, survived and, in many cases, triumphed over the mid-life crisis (MLC), also known as the “Male Menopause”.

One of the most recent and best-known mid-life crisis examples would have to be brilliant Academy-Award winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. In a feature reported in the Bangkok Post (10 August 2001), Dreyfuss said that, “He still wants to be a teacher when he grows up, but at age 53 finds himself in the throes of a ‘fascinating’ midlife crisis.” He is playing the lead role in a new CBS dramatic series about a fiftyish university professor coming to terms with his former childhood dreams and the realities of the doubts and dread of pre-senior citizenry.

For Dreyfuss, his own MLC has imposed a new sense of uncertainty and perplexity about life. “I now see life through this new filter of questioning and uncertainty,” he says, “about things that I was damn sure of 20 years ago - an experience I believe many men my age have in common.”

Mid-Life Crisis: what is it?

Regarded generally as the decade between 40 and 50, alternatively labelled as “the deadline decade for men between 35 and 45”, by Gail Sheehy in the book “Passages”, the mid-life crisis, as one would expect, is under intense scrutiny in the West. Everyone, as usual, has an opinion: psychiatrists, medics, sociologists, geneticists, scientists, the media, the antagonists in the “war between the sexes”, the fitness and health spa fanatics, captains of industry... the line-up is endless!

Here is PC after his MLC

The mid-age - or mid-life - crisis also presents a midriff crisis: the body just will not fit into that old suit. But sadder than that, even as the body is complaining, one is not able to give up that self-image of a long-lost youth.

In the more family-oriented societies such as Thailand and India, the crisis had been traditionally contained through the extended family where there was a place and time for all members and phases of life. Now, even in these countries, where mores are breaking down and the large, protective family is rapidly becoming the nuclear unit. Thus, the pressures on the middle-aged male reached a peak at around 45 - a time when he has to see his parents “out of life” while simultaneously settling his children “into life”. It comes at the same time when he has to compete with much younger graduates in the work-place, a trapped feeling of failure at home and outside.

Today’s child grows up much faster, with values not emanating from the family but, rather, coming hot off the television, videos, magazines and rock bands. The father figure is all but gone by the time a child is in the mid-teens. They know much more than their parents did at that age.

Mid-life is the time when a man sees clearly that he is not going to be immortalized in a public statue, to be the subject of a hot-selling biography, write a novel or paint a masterpiece. The realization comes very quickly that “this is it; I must coast along now, perhaps to 64”; or as a tee-shirt I recently saw said it so succinctly: “Same sh—, Different Day”. Fortunately, because of the dismal message it conveyed, the shirt was adorning the chest of a well-endowed young lady.

MLC By-Pass

I simply cannot recall MLC - probably because my total life has been one long crisis - reeling from one error only to plunge into a worse one or, as Alexis Zorba said it so succinctly in the film “Zorba the Greek” (also 60s vintage): “What is a man; is he not stupid? I am a man, so I married: wife, children, house, everything - the FULL catastrophe.”

Apart from that, I find it hard to recall what has been noted as “the most disturbing of all seasons in a man’s life ... the decade between 40 and 50 is a time of transition, of intense questioning - when fantasy collides with reality.”

Maybe escaping the Western worship of youth and retaining it at all costs “delayed” my crisis and allowed me to “avoid the worst of (Western) values, captive to the tyranny of youth where every new wrinkle is regarded as a visiting card of death”.

Like everything in my life, I think that if the MLC did strike, it came late: I was born late, I am usually late for appointments and meetings and, in many scenarios, I am a “Peter-come-lately”.

Undoubtedly, however, giving up the Western rat-race at about the time that MLC should have struck, was the major factor. Arriving in Thailand just prior to my fortieth year was the catalyst. Coming then to a country of strong family ties, beautiful people and an unsurpassed way of life - at least in the 70s and 80s - and preferential treatment as a “farang”, I did not give a remote thought to my impending ‘crisis’.

Now, most of the friends I have here are all “Golden Oldies”, including the recently-formed Bangkok Bangers Rugby Union Club the average age of which, compared to the rest I know, is quite junior. Yet none of them seems to be in the grip of MLC.

In the immediate post-Beatle era, when I did receive the odd birthday card, even those had a message, one from my favourite MLC ‘graduate’ stands out: “From 20 to 30 if you’re feelin’ right/It’s ONCE in the morning and ONCE at night.../From 30 to 40, if you’re still living right/You SKIP the MORNING but continue at NIGHT!/From 40 t0 50, it’s NOW and THEN.../And from 50 to 60, it’s GOD KNOWS WHEN!/From 60 on, if you’re STILL INCLINED/ believe me, FELLA - IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND! Thirty years on, I am still trying to work out what it means!

And here is PC as we know him today

Probably my only concession to the dreaded MLC was to try and fix a mouthful of dreadful fangs which could well have been a feature display in an orthodontic museum. Although - even now - I can boast a “full monty” of 32 teeth, there was so much amalgam and lead in there that I sometimes had a problem passing through airport and other security checks setting off the alarms.

A visit to the dentist many moons ago was also not too encouraging when he suggested I keep all the fillings and have the rest out! Nevertheless, he relented and repaired me - and a good job he did too. I practiced grinning showing full upper and lower fronts. Devastating, I thought.

Of course, my secretary was somewhat startled to see this inane grinning from her erstwhile (relatively) conservative boss. “Do you notice anything different?” I asked. She studied me carefully - face, clothing, shoes. I grinned until my jaws ached. She looked and looked, face wrinkled with concentration. Suddenly, she had the answer. “Oh, yes, you look very different without your glasses - almost handsome,” she conceded grudgingly.

I think that was the beginning - and END - of my mid-life crisis. The rest of the trappings which appear to have engulfed many Western males, causing them untold grief, uncertainty and, often, an inability to handle the biological changes, seem to have passed me by.

Perhaps one could summarize all this by a quote from a learned Indian industrialist, Navjot Dev, now 61 who contends: “The 40s to the 50s can be a very depressing time for a man, but it can also culminate in a second flowering - the light of self-discovery at the end of the passage. It is a process to gain wisdom, compassion, understanding and perspective”. At this stage, Dev adds, “many men find that they can no longer jog two kilometres, but they can walk six. And some have everything - money fame and status and can contribute something back,” he concludes.

“The way out of this frightening passage of life is to let it happen. The middle of the journey can also be a time of renewal,” adds another industrialist.

I agree entirely and finish with the words of the incomparable Maurice Chevalier, singing in the 1950s revue, “Gigi”: “And I’m glad I’m not young anymore!”

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