2005 - The Year of Luck


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This was the Year of Luck.  Whether that is good or bad luck we will leave for you to decide.

This year was far from normal. 

As you probably know this year started with us recovering from the psychological damage of the tsunami.  Roger and Rex were both affected by the experience in their own way.  They both tried to move on, but they both had nightmares for several months afterwards.  To get them back to a place where they were comfortable again we had to revert to sharing the same bedroom.  After about 3 months they were able to sleep comfortably in their own beds, but it wasn't a good time.

And there's the first example of whether we had good or bad luck in the year.  We had good luck because if the tsunami came one hour earlier, when we were still asleep in our room, we would have been badly injured ... or worse ... because the plate glass doors of our hotel room buckled and burst from the water pressure outside.  We would have been in a flooded room with shattered glass swirling around us and nowhere to escape.  So that was good luck.  But we lost virtually everything we took to Phuket for that holiday.  And we moved downstairs to a ground level room only the day before the tsunami struck (the rooms above ground level were untouched by the water).  So that was bad luck. 

In May Neil went off to New Zealand to start some contract work with a bank.  To find that work and go to NZ was good luck.  Because of the change in school year between the northern and southern hemispheres we decided it would be best for Usa, Roger & Rex to stay in Bangkok and complete school there until the end of the calendar year, so we have been apart for the majority of the year.  That's bad luck.  And then at the end of the year, due to some internal politics at the bank, Neil decided it would be better to look for prospects elsewhere before the family comes from Bangkok in the new year; after all, if we find something better in Wellington, Auckland or Australia then it's better to find out before we make the big move.  Only time will tell if this is good or bad luck.

In June we had a big shock; this happened about 3 weeks after Neil went to New Zealand.  When Roger and Rex were sleeping in their bedroom on the night before the last day of school, a fire broke out in their bedroom at around midnight.  As best as we can figure there was an electrical surge that caused a night light to burst; a spark caught the curtains which went up in flames.  Fortunately Rex doesn't sleep very well, so the smoke woke him up; he was able to wake Roger, they both got out of the room and alerted Usa to the problem.  She tried to use a fire extinguisher to douse the flames, but the nozzle of the extinguisher broke.  The result was that the room and contents were destroyed; all of the house upstairs except the master bedroom was either burnt out or smoke-damaged.  It was a big shock to the system and another example of bad luck in the year.  However, no-one was hurt, so that was good luck.

What followed the fire wasn't particularly pleasant to experience.  The fire was on the night of June 01.  The repairs and renovations weren't completed until the beginning of October.  Between June and October all of the remaining upstairs furniture except for the master bedroom was either moved downstairs or into the master bedroom.  It was extremely hard to move around in the congested space that was left -- there was no room to swing the proverbial dead cat.  The house repairs were extensive.  All of the bedroom walls, and several others, had to be strengthened.  All of the ceilings upstairs, except for the master bedroom, had to be replaced.  When this was done the floors had to be re-laid , everything re-painted and air conditioners replaced.  The two big paintings we have -- one from Bali and the other from Thailand -- were smoke damaged and we are not sure if they can be restored.  The photos (above) give a good idea of what the upstairs looked liked with fire and smoke damage and the last few photos show what things started to look like after the repairs were near complete.

That's about it for the Year of Luck.  So what do you think - have we had good or bad luck this year?  Whatever your choice you will surely agree that it has not been a normal year. 

Thinking back on this year and what has happened since marriage, it started us thinking.  A cat has nine lives.  How many does a Gamble have?  Here's our list of major events since Neil and Usa were married and who were affected:

Event Neil Usa Roger Rex
Coup d'etat in Bangkok, May 1992, when the military killed "hundreds of people" [according to Neil's colleagues in IBM Thailand].  Usa just happened to be in Bangkok after we were married to collect & pack more things to send to Jakarta  


Typhoon in Hong Kong in 1993 on the same day we were leaving the country.  OK, this wasn't life threatening, but there was a significant amount of tumult and congestion at the airport trying to leave the country; it seemed like everyone was leaving; incoming flights were delayed causing more congestion.  Usa was pregnant with Roger and people were pushing and shoving in very cramped conditions at the [old] airport    
Social unrest in Jakarta, May 1998,  when armed confrontations between protestors and the military took place in the street outside our compound in the Hilton and gangs ruled the streets, prevented people getting to the airport, attacked shops, engaged in mass rape of women in Chinatown and killed many others; the beginning of the end of the Suharto regime  
September 11 2001.  We left the US on Sept 07 to go to Thailand, arriving there on Sept 08.  However, we lived in the US for about 3 years and felt the shock & post-Sept 11 cultural changes through our close friends as much as anyone who lives in the US
SARS in Asia, July 2003.  Neil was working on assignment in China and was required to undergo house quarantine in Bangkok for 10 days after each visit.  Ten days after returning from one visit to Beijing Neil developed a fever; the Thai Dept of Public Health put him in an isolated hospital ward and only medical staff wearing hazmat suits were allowed to approach him.  Family visits were not allowed.  Neil is now the owner of a medical certificate stating he had a "suspected case of SARS"      
Asian tsunami, December 26 2004.  Not a good holiday
Fire at home in Bangkok, June 2005  
Totals 4 6 4 4


In August Roger and Rex started their new school year.  Roger started his first year of Middle School at RIS.  As usual he took a while to adjust, but the process was faster this year than in the past.  All reports indicate he is doing well.  Rex started Grade 3.  He had reason to celebrate when he was elected JC (Junior Councilor) for his class, something like Class President, representing the class in the school council.  And for those that know the concept it also makes him something like a school prefect with delegated authority from the teachers to control other students.  This role is due to his popularity with both the students and the teachers.

Usa took the brunt of family issues in the year.  Both Neil & Usa were able to help Roger and Rex through the trauma after the tsunami.  But Usa was alone during and after the fire and took the burden of dealing with the extremely uncooperative insurance companies in Thailand to get approval for the house repairs.  Two of the four months for repairs were spent getting various approvals that the repairs could be done and the costs were appropriate.  And even then they managed to cover only 65% of the cost because they claimed the house had depreciated (it is 3 years old) and, of course, that the quotes for repairs were too high so they would only cover what they determined was a fair market value for each line item to be fixed.  And let's not talk about contents insurance -- that's another story.


Last year Neil encouraged all friends and family to look for Plato's allegory The Cave.  Did you? 


We send you our best wishes for the New Year.

Neil, Usa, Roger and Rex The Gamble Family

2006 ...