Abroad

It`s been a dazzling week of travel and culture–a Chinese-Thai wedding, a visit to my godfather for an Italian dinner, the purchase and custom-fitting of a suit, learning about the Thai cats with two colors of eyes (who were in the process of moving to a new location), and now on to Japan (and having seen the cool Ghibli Museum), we`ve been in a lot of beautiful places and enjoying a lot of family time.

Traveling summer

As I set up for international travel this summer (lots of it), I’m debating how to trim down the load to lug around. Thankfully, we bought a Mac Air last summer, so toting the computer will be a breeze, plus photo processing will be simpler with transferring the pics onto the web for sharing (very important for family relations). Gear-wise, everything is much smaller than ever. Nice.

What I’ll miss the most is the Internet access from the phone. It’s back to paper–maps, directions, checking prices and schedules–and no cell phone calls when you’re lost. Ugh. What would be great is if there were free wifi, which would solve a lot of this. I doubt it will be there, though.

And lots of quiet time, just plain not speaking to people and reading a lot–yeah! Thanks to my language deficiency, I’ll be talking on an as-needed basis–fine by me!

Socially conscious Christmas

So this year, I’m working a lot on trying to keep with the spirit of Christmas in the post-ghost Scrooge fashion, to make my business “the business of mankind” in our family’s gift-giving.  Living a long way from any members of our family makes it a bit challenging to avoid the shipping costs, but hopefully our choices of company’s we are buying from help with this.  Here’s a minor list which helped us to keep things in the micro-economies of small, socially concious businesses we chose to buy from:
  1. Women’s Bean Project
  2. Arizmendi Bakery
  3. City Art Gallery
  4. Worlds Alive

It has been a lot of work, but I’m realizing how much easier this is using the Internet compared with the past, where I’d be shopping at local shops to support them, but the choices would be more limited and I wouldn’t always know where products were coming from.  I tried to get a good mix of local and national businesses, and I even managed to get a gift certificate from a local restaurant near my folks to have them try something new, good (hopefully), and local.  I’d never have been able to do this in the past…amazing.

Thailand’s struggle for democracy–the message is?

It may not be international news for most Americans, but with reports of over 100,000 tourists stranded in Thailand due to protests at Bangkok’s international airport, the point is being made that Thais are tired of corruption at the national level to the international community.

Unfortunately for the protesters, it seems like their message is not getting out in a cohesive way.  Lots of issues are at stake in these protests (which have actually been going on since August)–country versus city dwellers, rich versus poor, corrupt autocracy versus fractured democracy versus benevolent rule.  Actually, these are not all mutually exclusive (i.e. “versus”) but are trying to be rectified by a peaceful revolution by the people.

So what is the message?  Who are the leaders to speak with inside the PAD?  Symbolism is in the yellow shirts, to represent the benevolence of and loyalty to the King who has done only good for the country but has not directly intervened in the day-to-day politics of running the country.  In place has been the ruling-class political populism of former PM Thaksin whose ouster has led to his brother-in-law to become the current PM.  Unfortunately, the middle-class in Thailand is so diminished that, without it, this may become a class war between the poor who are supported by the current corrupt government and the middle and upper classes who have different power centers and ideas of democratic rule.

Baby boomer retirement

This one’s been on my mind for a while, but financial experts have been looking at this for years. Frontline has even done an entire program on it. What sort of plan my folks have is still on my list of “what to ask about” in the next couple of years and I hope I’m not too late on this.

Why worry? Well, it’s been a generality for me so far when news reports describe the looming baby-boomer retirement being a drag on those of us in the work world, but with my folks all within spitting range of retirement, it’s upon my family(s). And coming from a single-child, divorced household, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how to care for my parents and, incidentally, their spouses when there is only one of me. Not to mention, two of my three parents are somewhat self-employed, having their own businesses, and, consequently, no employer to match contributions to a potential 401k plan like I have.

After many years of just making it by on my own, I’m now finding that I have an income that goes beyond my own (and my wife’s) needs, so I’m considering finding a way to contribute toward retirement for my folks in their unique situation, to begin the Syssyphian task of saving with them. Thoughts and advice on how to start welcome…