Category Archives: Do-gooding

8 Things About Hot Thai Girls that Get With Ugly White Men

Soi Cowboy - one of Bangkok's main red light districts....

I grew up seeing it all the times in the Philippines. I even wrote a CultureMutt post about it a while ago: ugly old white guys with hot Filipina girls. Although it was surprising at first, you got used to seeing it. As soon as Jammie and I landed in Thailand we started to see the same thing here. Only it was even more prevalent. AND it felt like there was an even seedier undertone.

Everywhere you look in the touristy corners of Bangkok, white, middle-aged travelers have a hot Thai girl in tow. Jammie and I have asked our local friends about this and here are a few explanations we’ve been given for why Thai girls go for these men:

Worst Case Scenario – As depressing as it is, it needs to be said: prostitution is alive and well in Bangkok. Areas like Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy are teeming with sexpats and Asian prostitutes. For many, prostitution has become a form of modern-day slavery.

Jammie and I will be collaborating with a group that is working to prevent child prostitution later during our stay in Thailand. Key to solving the problem is presenting viable economic alternatives to families. Prostitution has often been seen as the most lucrative profession for young women with little education and other earning options. One of the best ways to fight prostitution is to present better ways to earn a living.

White Men are Seen As Affluent – A lot of older white men in Thailand are traveling on little more than their Social Security checks. Although this is not much to live on back home, this income puts them in a higher income category than most Thais. So the stereotype of the wealthy white foreigner is understandable. Just as rich guys in the West attract hot women, white men here are seen as wealthy and therefore attract hot Thai girls.

Better Living in Thailand – The dollar or euro stretches far in Thailand and the average old white guy looking for a hot Thai girl is going to live at a relatively high standard of living while they are in Thailand. Even if there is nothing else in the cards, this alone will motivate some Thai women to want to be with tourists.

A Way Out of Thailand – Here’s the bigger goal for many Thai women: go home with the tourist. As in all the way home and out of Thailand. And that’s how you get old white guys hobbling around with hot Thai girls back home. It looks crazy but when you understand why it happens, it starts to explain things.

They Actually Prefer White Guys – This part came as a bit of a surprise to me. And it’s good news for white dudes wanting to snag a hot Thai girl: she may actually prefer white guys. For reasons other than just finances. What are these reasons? Keep reading.

They Think White Men Will Be Better Husbands – It is a sad nonsecret in Thailand. Married Thai men often have mistresses. Now obviously marital unfaithfulness is not exactly rare in the US or Europe either. The difference comes in the degree of social acceptance of mistresses. It happens a lot in Thailand. Much more than it does in Western countries.

And Better Boyfriends Single Thai guys often have lots of different girls going at the same time. Again, I’m not saying that you don’t get a lot of players stateside but the idea of only having one girlfriend at a time is more of a cultural norm in the West.

Thai women know all this and therefore many of them prefer the farang (foreigner) because he is more likely to be faithful.

They Find White Guys Exotic – Here’s a crowd pleaser to end with. Whenever you are up against a numbers game and a certain kind of man is a rarity, the laws of supply and demand come into play. One trend that I have seen more and more of over the years in Asia is hot local girls with equally attractive foreigners. At least part of the reason for this is a much more “normal” one: opposites attract and because there aren’t a lot of foreigners around they are a bit of a catch.

Over to you: Are you in an interracial relationship in Thailand or Asia? Or do you know someone that is? How would you add to the above list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand

 

Little Phop and why this round-the-world trip isn’t just a big vacation

Pop star Ricky Martin plays with orphans at a Thai Red Cross Children’s Home in Bangkok on Wednesday
As no pictures are allowed for regular visitors at the Thai Red Cross Children's Home, I poked around on Google Images until I found this pic of Ricky Martin visiting the home:)

You may have read my post about my first meeting with 3 year-old Phop, last week.  It was my first real volunteer opportunity since landing in Bangkok and I felt like I had really connected with Phop.  I had heard that the Thai Red Cross Children’s Home had been able to identify a family for him so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to see him again this week when I went to volunteer.  But he was there!

As much as I am delighted that he has a family that will take him in, I was very happy to see Phop.  This time around he was a lot more cooperative.  Last week I literally had to carry him for almost the entire 2-hour visit.  This time (thanks to my wife Jammie’s coaching), I got him to interact a bit more with the rest of the people in the play room.  He was really into his own version of kickball!

All went well until I left the play room to go to the bathroom.  Apparently he cried nonstop until I got back.  I felt special:)  It was one of those moments when I could more clearly see the deeper purpose behind our round-the-world trip.

When Jammie and I were still just thinking about taking a year to travel we had some really strong feelings about how we wanted the year to look. Yes, we wanted adventure. Yes, we wanted to experience life in other countries. And yes, we wanted to eat amazing food. But these things were not enough. We weren’t looking for just a big vacation.

We wanted the trip to actually mean something. And the way we wanted to find this meaning was through volunteering for good causes.  We were really intent on finding excellent volunteer opportunities.

Where to start?

The only problem was that we did not know where to start. Should we volunteer to tutor people in English? Feed the homeless at a shelter? Help care for endangered animals? Fight human trafficking? Each volunteer opportunity seemed worthy.

Shaking things up

We decided that instead of signing up with a volunteer organization before we arrived in the Bangkok (the first of the four cities we had selected to live in for three months each) we would check out volunteer opportunities after we arrived.

We had both done things the other way around before (signing on the dotted line with an organization before you arrive in a country for volunteer work) and for a number of reasons we wanted the freedom this time around to pick and choose after actually visiting the service locations.

That is what we have started to do in Bangkok. Because the Thai Red Cross Children’s home volunteer opportunity has been working so well, I have committed to going every Monday for starters. I may go more often if I decide to make this my main service project in Bangkok.

English tutoring.

English language teachers are in extremely high demand here. Both Jammie and I have been offered paid jobs. On our shoestring budget it’s a little tempting to take people up on the offers. But the point in this year was and is to travel and find international volunteer opportunities, not simply to find new full time jobs in Thailand. (For those that may be interested in full time teaching work in Thailand, I’ll have a future post about it and why it is a unique way to make and save money.)  For now we are holding off from the paid positions.

But just the fact that we weren’t looking for teaching jobs doesn’t mean that we couldn’t tutor people in English for free. Jammie has volunteered to tutor our apartment caretaker’s teenage daughter in English. She’s had one session so far and the language barrier was tough to deal with but she did really well and I am proud of her.

Thank you to everyone that is helping!

After hearing what this year is all about, so many people have stepped up to help us. I have lost count of how many times people have hooked us up by blog comments, emails and in-person conversations.  So far the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok, the Scandinavian Society, the Church of Sweden and Capitol Toastmasters have been very helpful in terms of finding us local connections.   Thanks everyone!!

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


 

Meet Phop, the coolest 3 year-old in Bangkok

Pictures inside the children's home were forbidden so this was the best I could get...

He was bawling his little lungs out when they handed him to me. I was on my first visit to the Thai Red Cross Children Home in Bangkok and when a staff member handed little Phop over to me, I was immediately nervous.

I carried him to the play room, following the other volunteers that had come with the Church of Sweden. Every one else had a quiet, obedient child in their arms. I had landed the vocal 3 year-old.

“Phop always cries,” explained Mimi, one of the other volunteers. I tried bouncing him up and down as I carried him around the play room. No luck, he was still screaming. I tried to distract him with a stuffed toy. Even worse. “I’m on to your tricks!” it seemed he was saying.

“It’s OK buddy,” I tried. “Here, how about this toy?” The action figure I held up drew a brief flicker of interest (he was wearing action figure PJs) and then it was back to bawling. Just as I started despairing that I would be the only volunteer who could not handle a kid, Phop, calmed down and stopped screaming. A miracle!

I tried putting him down. Maybe he wanted to play? Nope. He was clearly not interested. He just wanted to be carried around. So we walked around the play room looking at the other volunteers and toddlers, me talking to him and him content to have an adult all to himself.

And that’s how it went for two whole hours, with a break where he let me feed him chicken noodles and an obsession with standing on the windowsill for the last five minutes. Then it was all over, I handed Phop back to the staff, I saw him run over to his crib and jump in.

“It’s always hardest for us to say goodbye at the end,” offered another volunteer. Indeed it was. I hope to see you again, Phop.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand

 

Swede Hunting in Bangkok – unconditional praise for the Swedish Embassy

Celebrating our good luck!!

“So if I wanted to meet you guys and other Swedes in Bangkok socially, how would that work?” I was talking to a bemused staff member on the other side of a glass window at the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok.

“I mean, what does your events calendar look like here? When do you have your gatherings?” It had taken me long enough to find the Swedish Embassy (my online map had helpfully steered me to the Pakistani Embassy instead) so now that we were here, I was determined to use my Swedish and find out how to meet my fellow Vikings in Bangkok.

“Hmmm… Give me a minute and let me look around for some info,” said the aide. Jammie and I crossed our fingers. We had several goals for this first visit to the Swedish Embassy. For starters, we really wanted to make Swedish friends in Bangkok. And we were also hoping to get some info on interesting service opportunities. Would the embassy have any info on how we could kickstart our year of do-gooding?

Jackpot

Doors that opened (on more than one level) :)

 

“OK, I’ve got someone that can talk to you.” Our man was back at the window. He gave us directions to head to the other end of the embassy. We walked over and were met by a Thai Swede, Varaporn Premsot, the Cultural Officer at the Embassy.

She had several ideas.

Events for Swedes:

“We debuted a Swedish Film Festival that drew a lot of people last year,” she said. We’ll do that again but that’s in May and you’ll be gone by then. But there’s a world music festival in February that you should come to. We’ll have some Swedish performers and that’ll be fun.”

Meeting Swedes:

“Talk to the priest of the Church of Sweden here in Bangkok, she can help. There’s also the Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce. There are a lot of Swedish businesses in Bangkok so if you are looking for work, check them out and hit their mixers. If you want to eat Swedish food, Stable Lodge has some of the classics, plus the Huntsman Pub draws the biz crowd.”

Do-gooding:

“Go talk to the people at Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). With your background in fundraising there may be some interesting opportunities to which they could point you….”

Next steps…

Wow… Jammie and I couldn’t believe our luck. “Thanks… thanks a lot!!” We headed straight over to the Sida offices and introduced ourselves. Then over to the Hunstman Pub and Stable Lodge (which really did have a very Swedish menu including the Swedish pancakes that account for half of my Swedish patriotism).

The bus ride home (this was a FREE bus, hence the crowd)...

As soon as I got home I looked up the Swedish Church.  Their calendar was awesome: next week they have a Bangkok orphanage visit planned for Monday and a meet-up at Stable Lodge on Tuesday. We were ecstatic! Things were starting to fall into place. The humanitarian projects organized by the Swedish Church could be a great place to start our do-gooding activities — worthy work AND networking!

The early days are always a challenge but as had been our experience getting an apartment, the right people are always ready to help.

Stay tuned as we meet more Swedes next week. In the meantime, help us say thank you to the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok by liking their Facebook page.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


With a little help from my friends – Bangkok with the hookups

blast from the past... my friends from the good old days in the Philippines

The mist of confusion lifts when you make friends in a new city. Everything becomes easier.

Lucky

We headed to an English-speaking church in Bangkok this weekend hoping to meet as many people as possible.  Because we had taken the wrong route to the church we got there super late. So instead of actually going to church we started talking to those outside.

We asked all the questions that the language barrier had kept us from asking earlier in the week:

“Are there any good apartments around here?”
“What’s the best way to navigate Bangkok?”
“What are some cool charities that we could volunteer for?”

Luckily they had lots of answers and ideas. We started exchanging numbers with people and jotting down suggestions.

Blast from the past

And then it got even better. “Hi Bjorn!” I looked up and in front of me were some childhood friends that I had grown up with in Philippines.  One of them worked in Bangkok and this weekend the whole family was visiting from the Philippines.  I couldn’t believe it! The relief at seeing familiar faces was immense. We were automatically invited for lunch and then a potluck for dinner.

Want a job?

By the end of the day we had two work opportunities and some info on an NGO (non-governmental organization) for which we could volunteer. Both work opportunities required fluent English – one was for office work for an international company, the next for English language teaching in one of the leading Bangkok universities.  The breakthroughs were mind blowing.

just looking at this Saturday night potluck pic makes me hungry again....

Bottom Line: the 80/20 Principle

This experience really drove home what is commonly called the 80/20 principle.  Here’s how lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss puts it:  “80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs,” or, “80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.”  This has definitely been true of our time in Bangkok so far.  All our time spent reading and hunting for info did not produce anything near the results of a handful of conversations with the right people.

Nowhere was this more true than with our Bangkok apartment rental efforts:

We had spent hours online, pouring over Bangkok apartment listings. We had painstakingly narrowed down our search to the options that fit our budget. We spent a lot of time looking up locations on Bangkok Maps. In all the time we had spent so far we hadn’t even gotten to calling any of the landlords up (I was dreading doing so because I was anticipating a mountain of language barrier problems.).

One conversation on Saturday made all the difference. “I’ve got a great, cheap apartment that I think could work,” said the husband of one of my childhood friends. He then hooked us up with one of his friends that negotiated an amazing deal.

It was humbling to realize that this one conversation had produced far better results than our hours spent wading through online listings. The Bangkok apartment our friend found us cost $130/month (less than half of what we had budgeted). It was in a safe area and right next door to a friend.

Do-gooding

Our next major priority is finding some nonprofits to work for. We will be pooling the suggestions we get as well as visiting a few different organizations. We will be giving all recommendations submitted on this blog special preference so please submit your ideas in the comment section.

Please leave a comment with your suggestions. Know of a good Bangkok-based orphanage? An after school program? A program working to prevent underage human trafficking? We don’t need pay. Just an interesting project. Have a think. Maybe you can help us….

Looking forward to hearing from you…

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


How Do you Beat the Fear of the Unknown? Suggestions Anyone?

Jammie in a helicopter right before we got engaged on a snow-capped mountain top in Northern California. I was super nervous:)

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” This was a question Jammie and I asked ourselves over and over again as we planned the biggest move we had ever made. We were planning to give up perfectly good jobs during a horrible economic time and an even worse hiring environment.

The Dream

For what? The open road. The grand experiment. One year, four cities (all starting with “B” – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Bombay (Mumbai)), three months each.

As explained a couple posts ago in “We Have Quit Our Jobs to Travel the World”, this was a very deliberate choice. A conscious lifestyle 180. We had wanted to do it for a long time but every time we got close to doing it, we backed out.

When we finally took action and decided to just go for it, we still struggled with our fear of the unknown. How would all this turn out? Would we be OK? Was all this a mistake? These were tough questions with no good answer.

The Ultimate Disaster

To avoid future ulcers, we decided to picture the ultimate disaster, the worst case scenario and decide how we would deal with that. We figured that picturing the worst-case scenario might be the best place to start.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7d/Question_opening-closing.svg/200px-Question_opening-closing.svg.png

Source: Wikipedia

Here were some of our doomsday scenarios:

1) We tell everyone we are doing on our trip and then for some reason, we can’t leave California – it’s super embarrassing and we have to tell people the trip is off.

2) We quit our jobs and some major unforeseen expense hits and we end up broke, crying in some abandoned Bangkok alley.

3) We get some horrible disease far away from home without access to the medical care we need.

4) We realize that instead of being an incredible epiphany and the amazing lifestyle design experiment we had envisioned, we hate our new life and decide we have made the worst decision ever.

Even putting those scenarios in writing was difficult!

Fear-setting

In spelling out our doomsday scenarios, we were actually following some good advice from lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss. He calls it “fear-setting”.

In his first book, The Four Hour Workweek, he says that before taking off on his own transformational trip he asked himself “Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be – the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip?…”

Tim says “As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started to think of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once.”

What he also noticed was that on a scale of 1 to 10 “1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4″ whereas his “best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario… would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect”.

Discovery: the Positive Potential FAR Outweighs the Chance of Disaster

20121226-051936.jpg
looking at the bright side...

 

Jammie and I found the same to be true in our situation. We could rebound from all the above worst case scenarios, regroup and be OK in the long term. Sure, each of the above would be a major setback. But if we responded strongly to any of our doomsday scenarios, we would probably recover. Just because there was risk involved did not mean that we should avoid going on the trip.

And the positive potential was huge: we would fulfill our dream of traveling, living and working internationally while doing some good for other people.

Even better news was that the chances of us achieving the positive potential of our experimental year were far greater than the chances of our worst-case scenarios taking place. Put this way, deciding to go on our 1-year trip was a far easier decision. This just had to be done.

What’s scary is staying the same –

The only genuinely scary thing would have been to do nothing. To let more years pass on the hamster wheel without aggressively pursuing the dream. By giving in to the feeling of unease about change, that vague fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, we would have given up on a chance for something better in life.

How about you? How do you handle the fear of the unknown? I am sure Jammie and I could learn from you. Leave a comment with your best tip for beating the fear of the unknown.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

How to tell family and friends you are leaving the country for a year

Guess what?

As my wife Jammie and I have just gone though the process of telling employers, friends and family that we are leaving the country to travel the world and do service projects for a year, I thought this would be a good time to talk about what worked and what didn’t. So here’s a list of dos and dont’s for spreading the word before you hit the trail:

DO

Hustle – Don’t take forever. If need be, schedule your important conversations. Make sure you get in-person conversations with anyone in your inner circle that is close by. Call loved ones that are far away. These critical conversations should not take more than a few days. Everybody else can find out via email. So as to protect privacy and avoid undue snooping, Bcc everyone so that people can’t tell who else is getting the email.

Sequence – The order in which you have your conversations is critical. At work, tell your boss and any other management first, THEN send out the “dear colleagues” email. Get the order wrong and you will look clueless and unprofessional.  With family and friends, start with your inner circle first.  Get that wrong and you’ll have some hurt/mad energy to fend with.

Keep it lightYou have thought a lot about your big move. You thought through all the pros and cons. You’ve agonized over all the details. You’ve second guessed yourself, gone back and forth. In the end, your transformational trip (rightfully) triumphed over the idea of more time on the hamster wheel. But most people don’t need to know all this. Keep it light. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel and do some good.” Nuff sed.

DON’T

Forget people – I know it is hard to remember everyone as you make your round of announcements. But be as deliberate as possible about this. Make a list of everyone that should know. Follow the above instructions RE in person and email communication. Then hit the social networks. This should cover most people.

Overthink – It is easy to overthink who to tell and how. My wife Jammie and I were nervous about telling her dad about our plans. Would he approve? What would he say? How do we even bring it up? In the end, we just went for it. We said we had an announcement. He thought Jammie was pregnant! When we delivered the news, he got into it and was super excited. We could have skipped the agonizing.

A final word. Once you get started, spreading this kind of news becomes easier and more polished.  So make it easy on yourself by taking a “rip off the bandage” approach.  Good luck.

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Bjorn Karlman

We have quit our jobs to travel the world!!

 

We’ve never done anything this huge: My wife Jammie and I have turned in our resignation letters, quit our jobs to travel the world, write and do service projects for 12 months. We have picked four major world cities – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Mumbai – and we are going to spend three months in each. We are ridiculously excited.

Why are we doing this?
Years ago we started planning for this kind of a move. We had always wanted to live and work internationally, to get involved with international humanitarian nonprofits. We did not want to be stuck in one town or country working office jobs for the rest of our lives. We had always wanted to free up our location and really live the tag line for CultureMutt: savvy, global do-gooding.

Why now?
This huge step was easy to put off. We had already put it off twice. Twice we had told ourselves that we were going to take the bold leap to travel and work oversees. Twice we backed out.

It took a dramatic, late-night conversation with one of my closest friends to finally decide to activate the plans we kept postponing for a “better”, “more convenient” time.

“You are young and you have so much to offer!” my friend, shouted in my ear over the din of a rowdy San Francisco lounge. “Why are you playing it safe as if you were middle-aged with a mortgage and kids?! You are selling out! This is the time to go for your dreams and take some risks. If you fail you can rebuild but if you succeed you will be living the dream. Do it!!”. That conversation was the final push I needed. Within days we decided to finally act on our plans and go for our dreams 100%.

How can we afford this?
How are we paying for 12 months of international travel and living without jobs? For starters, we picked very affordable cities that we had either lived in, visited or at the very least, researched. Then we put aside enough of our savings to cover the basics of tickets, rent, food, etc. For any additional expenses we will make money the way both of us have in the past: through freelance writing, consulting and teaching. The beauty of making money using these methods is obviously that you can use them to make money anywhere in the world.

Why Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Mumbai?

Bangkok  – We both love Southeast Asia. And there is no Southeast Asian capital with quite the same dynamic mix as Bangkok. The food is amazing, the country is beautiful and we already have a non profit that works to prevent sex trafficking that we are going to be volunteering for in Thailand.

Buenos Aires – I spent four amazing months studying Spanish in Buenos Aires in 2005. Weeks before leaving I was already missing this awesomely stylish city. The tango dancers in the streets, the amazing artistic scene and the roar from the “futbol” stadiums are unbeatable. Also, on the volunteering front, I have friends in Argentina that are well-connected to some education and healthcare nonprofits for which we would love to work.

Berlin – The buzz about Berlin as a European youth culture and arts capital is well-deserved and growing. Not only do we want to sample this but we want to establish relationships with some of Berlin’s emerging, young entrepreneurs. Young creative minds have descended upon Berlin in droves in recent years. This a city on the move and we want in.

Mumbai – Mumbai is India’s biggest, baddest city. It is also home to Bollywood, the second largest film industry in the world. Put simply, we want connections within this industry. They could be very helpful in our quest for savvy, global do-gooding. So far we have some friends who have worked in Bollywood. We aim to make more of them. We might even land a cameo:)

When does this all start?
After Christmas in England with my family, we fly to Bangkok in the first week of January, 2013. There starts our series of four, 3-month world city relocations. This is happening!

There – now you know. Wish us luck and if you have world travel tips for our gap year or any specific advice on navigating our four world cities, leave them in the comment section.

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Bjorn Karlman