Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Grow Up to Be a Dirty Old Man”

“So,” said AdventureMan, sitting down with me to eat a pizza after an unusually disrupted Friday, our day off, “tell me more about King David. Like wasn’t he the one who killed Goliath?”

He is asking, because the sermon at our church this morning was like eight sermons in one sermon. While the priest stuck close to the gospel and readings, he made so many good points that we had already discussed with our friend over breakfast, but there were still so many to discuss.

“Yeh, King David is problematic, once you get to be a grown-up,” I started. We have to start with the Israelis arrival in the promised land.”

“Israelites.” He corrected me.

“Yes. Them. They wanted a king. God said ‘no’ that they didn’t need a king, but they kept whining that all the other peoples had a king and they wanted one, too.”

(Please keep in mind, I am not a theologian, and this is my summary, as best as I can figure it out, so you can argue with me, I am no expert, but I DO read scripture.)

“They kept begging for a king, and I am guessing it annoyed God so much that he gave them one. (Who knows what God is thinking?) The prophet Samuel annointed Saul, and Saul became king over all the tribes of Israelites, but he got in major trouble because he didn’t do what God told him to do.”

“What did he do?” AdventureMan is fascinated.

“He was supposed to kill ALL the males of the tribe he had conquered, but he didn’t. When Samuel confronted him, he argued, then he said he would go back and kill the ones he had promised God he would kill and he had promised these guys he would not kill them, but he went back and killed them anyway. He thought going back and doing what he was supposed to do would make it all right with God, but it didn’t.”

“Where does David come in?” AdventureMan asks.

“Samuel anoints David king, at God’s instruction, so for a while there are two kings of Israel.” I explain.

“Isn’t that the one where Samuel looks at all the sons and doesn’t see the one who is supposed to be king?” AdventureMan asks. (Good! He was listening in Sunday school!)

“Yep. God told him none of the sons he saw was the one, so he asked the father if he didn’t have any other sons and he sent for David, who was out taking care of the sheep in the fields, and God said ‘that’s the one.

So David kills Goliath, and Saul invites him to come live with him in the castle, and Saul’s son Jonathan loves David and David loves him, and Saul’s daughter Michal also loves David, and David marries her. Saul knows God’s spirit isn’t with him anymore, and he has these fits when he tries to kill David because David is very successful in battle and the people love him and Saul has a sneaking suspicion that God’s spirit is with David, so he is really jealous, even though a part of him loves David. There are a lot of times he throws his spear at David, trying to kill him, and finally Michal and Jonathan help David escape totally.

Eventually Saul dies, David becomes king, but David has some odd behaviors.”

“I remember last week, or the week before, when the arc of the covenant was being moved and David told one man to stop and it ended up killing that man,” AdventureMan said, “it was supposed to be about moving God’s home on earth, but it turned into being all about David.”

“Yeh, during that same procession, he took off all his clothes and danced wildly. It may have been exultation, but there is this strange verse about Michal watching from her window and despising him in her heart. Really an odd event.”

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“OK, so what happened with Bathsheba?” he asks.

“Pretty much what we heard today in the gospel reading.” I respond. “After Uriah is killed in battle, she marries the king and bears him a son who becomes Solomon, who turns out to be really wise.”

“So what is your problem with David?” AdventureMan asks.

“We all grow up thinking he is a great guy, but the bible tells us he was also greatly flawed,” I respond. “After Michal helped David get away, Saul married her to another guy, and they really loved each other, but once David became king, he sent his men to take her away from the other guy, even though he already had two other wives. He did that naked dancing thing. God made him really sick for disobeying, and being more focused on his kingliness than this responsibilities, but David repents heartily, and tells God if God will heal him, he will serve God with all his heart. I guess it is a mystery to me why God loves David so much. But it might have more to do with Solomon than with David.”

It’s not often that AdventureMan and I are so engrossed in a bible reading that we discuss it over dinner, and the discussion went on and on, because it was such a human story, and also sort of a mystery.

During the sermon, the priest made us vote as to who was wrong, Bathsheba, for bathing on her roof, or David. We all voted, every single person, for David being in the wrong.

At the end of the service, when the priest sends us forth to love and serve God, he added this prayer, which I am certain referred to King David, but it caused a collective gasp nonetheless:

“Lord, please keep us far away from pornography. Please don’t let me grow up to be a dirty old man.”

We love this priest. He is direct. Very straightforward. At the same time, he is very practical about people and their fallibilities. I suspect we will be thinking about this sermon the whole week. That’s a really good sermon!

(I found a fascinating discussion of the passage about King David dancing naked in a writing on Passionate Spirituality and Worship written by a Mennonite theologian which presents another interpretation / explanation of what is going on)

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July 25, 2009 Posted by | Community, Family Issues, Mating Behavior, Random Musings, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | 5 Comments

Thai Airport Shoplifting Scam

Imagine – you’re heading home from a wonderful vacation, and out of the blue, you are arrested, accused of shoplifting, and threatened with jail until you cough up several thousand dollars. And it is happening repeatedly!

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok
Bangkok’s showcase new international airport is no stranger to controversy.

Built between 2002 and 2006, under the governments of then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the opening date was repeatedly delayed.

It has been dogged by allegations of corruption, as well as criticism of the design and poor quality of construction.

Then, at the end of last year, the airport was shut down for a week after being occupied by anti-government protesters.

Now new allegations have been made that a number of passengers are being detained every month in the duty free area on suspicion of shoplifting, and then held by the police until they pay large sums of money to buy their freedom.

That is what happened to Stephen Ingram and Xi Lin, two IT experts from Cambridge, as they were about to board their flight to London on the night of 25 April this year.

They had been browsing in the duty free shop at the airport, and were later approached by security guards, who twice asked to search their bags.

Mr Ingram and Ms Xi were told they had to pay £8,000
They were told a wallet had gone missing, and that Ms Lin had been seen on a security camera taking it out of the shop.

The company that owns the duty free shop, King Power, has since put the CCTV video on its website, which does appear to show her putting something in her bag. However the security guards found no wallet on either of them.

Despite that, they were both taken from the departure gate, back through immigration, and held in an airport police office. That is when their ordeal started to become frightening.

Interpreter
“We were questioned in separate rooms,” Mr Ingram said. “We felt really intimidated. They went through our bags and demanded that we tell them where the wallet was.”

The two were then put in what Mr Ingram describes as a “hot, humid, smelly cell with graffiti and blood on the walls”.

Mr Ingram managed to phone a Foreign Office helpline he found in a travel guide, and was told someone in the Bangkok embassy would try to help them.

The next morning the two were given an interpreter, a Sri Lankan national called Tony, who works part-time for the police.

They were taken by Tony to meet the local police commander – but, says Mr Ingram, for three hours all they discussed was how much money they would have to pay to get out.

Mr Ingram and Ms Xi were taken to meet the local police commander
They were told the charge was very serious. If they did not pay, they would be transferred to the infamous Bangkok Hilton prison, and would have to wait two months for their case to be processed.
Mr Ingram says they wanted £8,000 ( about $13,000) – for that the police would try to get him back to the UK in time for his mother’s funeral on 28 April.

But he could not arrange to get that much money transferred in time.

‘Zig-zag’ scheme
Tony then took Ms Lin to an ATM machine and told her to withdraw as much as she could from her own account – £600. He then withdrew the equivalent of £3,400 from his own account.

According to Mr Ingram this was then handed over to the police, and they were both forced to sign a number of papers.

Later they were allowed to move to a squalid hotel within the airport perimeter, but their passports were held and they were warned not to leave or try to contact a lawyer or their embassy.

“I will be watching you,” Tony told them, adding that they would have to stay there until the £8,000 was transferred into Tony’s account.

On the Monday they managed to sneak out and get a taxi to Bangkok, and met an official at the British Embassy.

She gave the name of a Thai lawyer, and, says Mr Ingram, told them they were being subjected to a classic Thai scam called the “zig-zag”.

Their lawyer urged them to expose Tony – but also warned them that if they fought the case it could take months, and they risked a long prison sentence.

After five days the money was transferred to Tony’s account, and they were allowed to leave.
Mr Ingram had missed his mother’s funeral, but at least they were given a court document stating that there was insufficient evidence against them, and no charge.

“It was a harrowing, stressful experience,” he said.

The couple say they now want to take legal action to recover their money.

‘Typical’ scam
The BBC has spoken to Tony and the regional police commander, Colonel Teeradej Phanuphan.
They both say Tony was merely helping the couple with translation, and raising bail to keep them out of prison.

Tony says about half the £8,000 was for bail, while the rest were “fees” for the bail, for his work, and for a lawyer he says he consulted on their behalf.

In theory, he says, they could try to get the bail portion refunded.

Colonel Teeradej says he will investigate any possible irregularities in their treatment. But he said any arrangement between the couple and Tony was a private affair, which did not involve the police.

Letters of complaint to the papers here in Thailand make it clear that passengers are regularly detained at the airport for alleged shoplifting, and then made to pay middlemen to win their freedom.

The Danish Embassy says one of its nationals was recently subjected to a very similar scam, and earlier this month an Irish scientist managed to flee Thailand with her husband and one year-old son after being arrested at the airport and accused of stealing an eyeliner worth around £17.
Tony told the BBC that so far this year he has “helped” about 150 foreigners in trouble with the police. He says sometimes he does it for no charge.

The British Embassy has also warned passengers at Bangkok Airport to take care not to move items around in the duty free shopping area before paying for them, as this could result in arrest and imprisonment.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Law and Order, News, Travel | , | 2 Comments