Saturday, August 28, 2010

46th Special Forces Company (Airborne) Association

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I was a young soldier who had the honor of serving in the United States Army Special Forces. Of all my assignments, the best was the two years I spent with the 46th Special Forces Company (Airborne) in Thailand. I am now a proud member of the 46th Special Forces Company Association. The association is involved in two projects that really are worth mentioning and supporting.

    a. The Wounded Warriors which I’ll invite you to read about at

    b. The Remote Schools of Thailand program, which we'll talk about today. 

There is one of these in every school the 46th Supports

The association supports some 26 remote schools throughout Thailand. The criterion is simple, they must be remote by Thai standards (way remote by American standards) and they must be poor and need help. There a 6 schools in the Chiang Mai area and I got to go visit one a couple of weeks ago. We went to Pangterm school about two hours drive, or 90 kilometers from Chiang Mai.

Caption?  We don't need no stinking caption!
The school has 105 students and 10 pre-school students. Why they don’t just count them as 115 is a mystery t me, but the schools exclude pre-school kids in their counts. Given that the association tries to bring supplies for all the kids, means we have to be aware of the distinction.

Assembled and Photographed in less than 5 minutes!

What does the association provide?

a. School supplies. Want to help? Please bring an extra suitcase full of simple school supplies with you when you come Thailand. Give them to me and I’ll give them to Reed. If you are headed to Pattaya, give them to Reed yourself. Pencils, pens, math flash cards, crayons are perfect. Writing paper and note books are too heavy and can be purchased locally.

b. Baby Blankets. There is at least one wonderful lady in the States who knits baby blankets and sends them to the Association. They are distributed to the people near the schools.

Young Mother and Baby receive blanket
from Mrs. Johnson

c. Specific Needs: Each school is different. At the Pangterm school the association provides plastic sheeting which is used to make fish tanks. The fish tanks are then used for fish to help feed the children.

When the association visits a school, we provide lunch for the children. It’s always a special treat, usually something the school cannot afford and often something the kids have requested.

Lunch time for the little kids

"Big" kids, the boys table
This is what a boy can do with his lunch before eating it!
Bean sprouts in blood
One thing I was able to do was spend about ten minutes teaching English to one class. It went so well we repeated the process in two other class rooms. Classroom time is special!

Class Room (Houng Rian)

There are more photographs from this special day at:   Enjoy!

My hope is to spend more time with the schools program and also help with the other activities. I’m truly delighted to be involved.

Abundant Blessings,

A Hodge Podge

Photo's: First there are a lot of new photo's on Photobucket.   If you care to see them you may click on  Photo's from my day witht the 46th Special Forces Association.   An article is coming soon.  The last Visa run.  See paragraph below.

Non Profit Organizations

Thailand has several excellent NPOs (Non Profit Organizations), and a few that aren’t all that and a bag of chips. Some of you know the story about my coming to Thailand to teach English. It’s proof that you should do your homework, check references and remember that on the internet anyone can say anything. I applaud your desire to help the world be a better place, just don’t waste your precious resources. Below are two of my favorites:

1. The 46th Special Forces (Airborne) Association supports some 26th schools in Thailand. All these schools have two things in common. They are poor and they are fairly remote. They need help. Here’s a thought: When you come to Thailand fill up your extra suite case with school supplies. Pencils, pens, flash cards, crayons are easy to transport and always needed. You bring them and we’ll get them to the kids. You may also contact the association directly and maybe even visit one of the schools.  It's sort of tradition to treat the kids to a special lunch when we visit a school.

Reed Johnson watches the kids

A happy lunch bunch!

2. The Elephant Nature Foundation is an organization that does what it says, an organization that is run by people who care and who are honest. Unfortunately there have been at least two organizations pop up with the stated purpose of raising funds for the Elephant Nature Foundation. Monies were raised but never given to ENF. The amounts are quite substantial! If you want to help the Elephant Nature Foundation, and I hope you do, please contact the foundation directly. If you are tempted to go through another organization; please check with the real Elephant Nature Foundation first, check references, do a little homework and you can put your money where it will actually help the elephants! Please visit

 Elephants need your support

Cigarettes: There was a piece in the Thai news not long ago talking about corrupt officials who had taken bribes from American big tobacco. I glanced at it and thought, well that just figures. I’m not going to rehash all that. If you have an interest you already know more than me; and of course a quick search on google will provide a bushel of those sorts of stories. For years the American government has required labeling on cigarette packages. The print is small and designed to be ignored. The Thai government takes a different approach. I knew you’d find it hard to believe so the last time I had breakfast at the Seven Suns I took the photo’s below.

Now ths is truth in Advertising!

Photo’s were posted in As you can see the cigarette packs didn’t meet Photobucket standards. Did they think I was trying to support cigarette sales or are the images just to gruesome for their tender senses?

If you are over here and want cigarettes but can’t deal with the Thai truth in advertising you can always go across the border to Myanmar (Burma) where they sell everything in perfect American packaging. Cigarettes and Viagra are the most popular. However you might want to know they manufacture the packaging and put God knows what inside. I have smoker friends who tell me that the Burmese cigarettes are truly nasty, at least the package is nice.  On my last trip I counted no less than 15 vendors walking through the market sell cigarettes, dirty movies and Viagra. It was raining so I left my camera in the bag. The Burmese, as a rule of thumb, speak better English than the Thais. One vendor asked me if I wanted to buy Viagra. I told him “You don’t have Viagra, you have fake Viagra”. Without a blink his response was “Want to buy fake Viagra”?  No!

Tachileik Myanmar

Last Friday I made another trip to the border for a “Visa Run”. This time I decided to spend a couple of hours doing the tourist thing. The first temple contained several Budda images. The driver made it a point of showing me the one that give the illusion of following you as you walk past.

See Photobucket for the series of three

There are also murals around the walls that tell the story of Buddha. One here, the rest in the photo bucket link below.
 Buddha Mural

Next we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s really cool.

Shwedagon Pagoda on a rainy day
Shewdagon Pagoda as seen from Mesai Thailand
Inside the Wat next to the Pagoda were people having lunch. I love this Burma Baby. His face tells me he just might be a very old soul in a very young body, or not. At any rate he’s worth a photo moment, eh?
Burma Baby


One of the many dogs that has been rescued by Sangduen Chailert is a little three legged gal named Cinderella. She came to the ENF office totally terrified of everyone and everything. She was given a bed with some private space in the gift shop. The other day, she ventured out into the main office! This is real progress. Every time I’m in the office I speak to her. One day she may let me get close enough to pet her. As of now the comfort zone seems to be about 1 mete, down from 2 meters a couple of weeks ago.


After her visit with her family in Nan Rong, Maliwan and I visited the Elephant Nature Park. The highlight, for me, was the walk in the morning. There will be a whole article coming soon.

Maliwan and Jokia

This morning might as well have been Buddhist Christmas. Maliwans new sewing machine arrived. As I’m finishing this article she’s on the porch trying to make heads out of the instruction book. When you buy something in the States the Instructions are always in three or four languages and if your lucky one will be English. Maliwan’s instruction book is in English only. The machine is a Singer, manufactured in Thailand. Go figure. No problem the purchase includes instruction and the instructor will be here this afternoon.

Assembly Smiles

Abundant Blessings,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Red Shirts in Chiang Mai

Red Shirt Demonstration

I received one of those standard notices from the U.S. Consulate warning all U.S. citizens that there would be a gathering of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD or "red-shirts") near the Tae Pae Gate. American intelligence at it’s finest! The rally at Tae Pae Gate was on Saturday. However, on Sunday there was a gathering near the 3 Kings monument; I happened to stumble on it as it’s right at the edge of walking street.
I don’t pretend to know much, err make that a darn thing, about Thai politics but I did figure out that the rally was about convincing the government to schedule elections and answer questions about the deaths during the Bangkok demonstrations this last May. As luck would have it I had cameras with me so, I walked among them.
Gal in black hat was collecting donations
I am red stick on were everywhere

Almost the first thing I noticed was that they had decided to tie ribbons on a tree. I don’t know the significance of this, but I do know that monks will tie saffron color ribbons around trees. These trees are blessed and no one who has any Buddhist heritage would dare to cut it down. Maybe they are asking the tree to bless them? More likey they are remeberence items.

There was another issue in the demonstration, perhaps more urgent; the death of 91 people in Bangkok.

There were people laying in the street as if they had been killed. Too late, I realized that I was welcome to climb up on the stage and take photographs. With the assistance of two or three, I got up there, but not before they all started to get up.
Mock Death of Bangkok
I was impressed with the a couple of the scenes people set up. The writing on the little red markers says Mrs., Mr., Miss the chains indicate that the families have no answer from the government about the death of their loved ones; they cannot be free.

Everyone I saw was quiet friendly and happy to be photographed. An older gentlemen asked me to take a picture, with his camera, of he and a young fellow. After I asked who the younger gentleman was. The answer: Sombat Boonngamanong (See , but only if you are interested in people trying to make a real difference)! The older fellow told me he was their Chiang Mai leader and he wanted peace. I really wish I had read up on him before yesterday.

Sombat Boonngamanong
I was impressed by the people demonstrating about not being able to speak out. The photo says it all. I pointed a camera and they all gave (me) the finger. I laughed and asked them if they learned that from Americans. They laughed, said yes and assured me it was a gesture intended for their current ruling president (prime minister). No offense taken I assured them; we are more similar than different.

An article on Thai Visa dot com this morning said that after the demonstration, people went to Walking street and were reported as intimidating. I happened to be there and I certainly saw nothing threatening or intimidating. They were chanting and having encouraging each other, but they were certainly not intimidating. Frankly I found them friendly, sincere but still of good humor. My prayer is that the wonderful people of Thailand find resolution to the issues and that foreign governments’, especially the United States, find the good sense to not interfere.

Abundant Blessings,


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chiang Mai Photos

I’ve been spending a lot of time getting the new blog ready. It was launched today! I do hope you enjoy Going forward this blog will be about everything interesting except that most of the elephant related articles will go to the new blog. Please do me a huge favor and click the FOLLOW button on this and / or the elephant stories blogs. I’d really love to know you are there.

I picked up a Nikon D300 camera a couple of weeks ago. I like it; it’s almost got me trained. Except for the long lens I asked someone to get me for my birthday, I’m set for cameras for a while. My very old Fujifilm S2 Pro finally bit the dust. I’ll take it to Fujifilm next time I’m in Bangkok, but I think the sensor is gone and the repair will be cost prohibitive. I’ll miss it; a great portrait camera with marvelous skin tones and always accurate with the light.

One of the things I like about the new camera is it’s higher ISO capability. Maybe it’s a better camera for night work. Oh look!

By the way, it's a sign of stress when they thump their trunks on the ground.  Not good.

I went to the Sunday market in Chiang Mai a week ago. I cut through Wat Pra Sing and the light was just about perfect. Here’s what I saw.

When I got to the walking street there were patterns galore.  The images will also give you a hint of what can be found on a Sunday evening in Chiang Mai.

More Lanterns

Thursday was the Queen’s birthday. The Thai celebrate this holiday as Mother’s day. Yes the King’s birthday is celebrated as Father’s day. Both turn out to be two day holidays. It speaks to their respect of the Royal Family.
Stage at Tae Pae Gate set to celebrate the Queen's birthday

Sometimes, just for the heck of it I shoot out of the back of a song tau or tuk tuk.  This time I got lucky.

The wall near Tae Pae Gate
Love her smile!

Abundant Blessings!


Monday, August 02, 2010

Elephant Blog Preview - I need your help

Gentle Reader,

I’ve decided to create a 2nd blog. It will be dedicated to the elephants.  While I'm at it, would you help me name this photograph?
Not all of my photo's are meant to be pretty!  

Given that jerrynelsonjournal was intended to be a hodgepodge in the first place, it seems appropriate that I just keep it as is and continue. The new blog will be all about the elephants. This leaves me with two points to ponder; I ask your advice:
   a. What shall we name the new blog? (Really, I’d like some opinions)!

   b. I’m tempted to repost most of the old elephant related articles on the new blog. Does that make sense?

It’s also been suggested that I use Facebook as an additional tool to let people know what’s happening, especially in the elephant rescue world. If you have Facebook I’d be honored if you would find me and send a friend request. The easiest way is to used my email address,

Of course, I'd also be delighted if you would take the option to follow my blog(s).  I promise not to clutter them with advertising, just information.

Postings about “The Walk to Freedom” and the rescue of “Plysee” will be forth coming very soon. In the meantime here are two preview shots.

PhySee just before his rescue on July 31, 2010

We are Free!  July 30, 2010

Conversation in the van on 7/31 turned to books and authors. I mentioned the Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries set in the PDR Laos in the 1970’s. The author is Colin Cotterrill. They are a great read, especially if you like your mysteries with more than a dash of culture and mysticism. Enjoy!

Abundant Blessings,


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Just around Chiang Mai

This posting isn't as serious as some; rather, it's more about the details one could miss if not paying attention.  I do hope you enjoy it.  But first, figure the odds of hanging out with one camera and no extra equipment, and having a pregnant lady come up and ask if you would be willing to do a maternity shoot! I’d never seen the woman before and she certainly had no idea that maternity portraits were my absolute favorite before I came to Thailand. She has chosen to remain anonymous for her own reasons, but I can tell you the shoot took place about two weeks ago somewhere in Thailand.

Beautiful Belly
Ambient LightThe last time I was out at night I was approached by a group of college students. They were taking surveys. The lead question was Did you have culture shock when you arrived in Thailand? My answer was too complicated for them, so I never got the rest of the questions, but I have to say that things here are different. Not necessarily better than where you are, not necessarily worse, but definitely different. Let’s look at a couple of simple examples:

    a.  Toilets. Most westerners have no idea what the little hose is for and most Asians are appaled that we have excluded this critical part of hygiene. (No photo’s, but if you request I’ll do a whole article on the potty, but only if you ask) ๕๕๕ (LOL).

    b.  Sidewalks. Silly Farang that I was, I assumed these were for walking upon. That’s one of their many purposes. They are great places to set up street stands! And of course, everyone knows that it’s much better to park your motorcycle on the sidewalk than in the street.

Typical Sidewalk Scene  c. Motorcycles: Today I was out with my camera. The shot isn’t going to win any prizes but it’s in focus and you can see for yourself. Heck I’ve seen several small dogs in the basket on the handle bars, but this, well this is a first for me.

Got a ride home!

  d. Children: The other morning I was having breakfast and at the table next to me I heard a loud klunk. I glanced over and here’s this adorable little boy with his personal collection of elephants. I asked his parents if I could share the picture with you. They were happy to oblige. There was no fear that I wanted to abduct or abuse their child. They sensed that I really enjoyed the joy! 
Kimkee and his three elephants.
   e. Death, the recently departed and all that business: The Thai culture is much more accepting of the inevitable than we are in the West. An American funeral home (why do they call it a home anyway)? Is just about as morose as humanly possible. In Chiang Mai Thailand we have a casket store and next door to that is place you buy funeral flowers. (The arrangements seem to be artificial and didn’t make a great photo). I got a real kick out of the sign in the window. I will tell you I took this a week ago and since they have taken it down. Still, to me it’s hilarious.
Yes, isn't this comforting? 

The sign above was on the door to the casket store.

To be a bit serious as I close this:  Elephants are revered in Thailand, but they are also abused.
A wall at Wat Prasing in Chiang Mai
Tail Light as required by law!

Look for a series of articles on the elephants in Thailand. Street Elephants, Walk to Freedom, and The rescue of Physee will all be coming soon.

Abundant Blessings,