Deciphering Glyphs and my Journey Locating Conditioner.

I should probably start by acknowledging that Thai characters are not glyphs. Thai has forty-four consonants (Thai: พยัญชนะ, phayanchaná), fifteen vowel symbols (Thai: สระ, sàrà) that combine into at least twenty-eight vowel forms, and four tone marks. (Pilfered from Wikipedia)

It turns out it isn’t exactly an alphabet but an abugida or a system in which ‘a consonant-vowel sequence are written as a unit.’ And I am not entirely sure what that means.

Now back to the point of this post.

Desperate not to use too much of my kids’ extortionate fragrance-free shampoo, and in desperate need of conditioner, I thought picking up a couple of bottles at our local Tesco Lotus would be relatively easy. Silly me.

I get to the hair care aisle only to face hundreds of bottles of different products, all in Thai. Had there only been two options, I could have just grabbed a bottle of each and figured it out through trial and error; sadly a variety of different hair treatments were added into the mix.

Twenty minutes later, after carefully studying a large section of bottles -and wandering through a few alternative aisles in the hopes of finding an expat-friendly section with things in English- I found pieces of my Rosetta Stone and I was able to figure out that the bottle on the left with the shorter text and letter resembling a ‘W’ at the end is the shampoo while the one on the right is the conditioner.

This is the hardest I’ve ever had to work for clean hair and apart from an immense sense of satisfaction at locating what I needed, it dawned on me that there are different types of reading. Of course, if you take it out of context such as letters printed on a white piece of paper, I probably could not pick out ‘shampoo’ or ‘conditioner’. Well maybe after the time spent tweaking the pictures I could make an educated guess but that is neither here nor there. However, if I had to run into a shop and quickly grab a bottle of one or the other, I’d have no trouble now that I have a block image of what each word looks like.

How ever tenuous the strand (pun intended), I am going to believe that I’m one step closer to reading Thai.

P.S. I am going to ignore the fact that if I plug both shampoo and conditioner into google translate, it gives me an entirely different set of characters… Boo.

Bedtime Stories: Olivia & the Countdown to Getting Busted!

This post was inspired in part by Carl Honoré’s wonderful talk at PopTech on his book In Praise of Slowness – specifically the temptation of the one-minute bedtime story. Someday my girls will thank him. For thanks to him I take a deep breath and remember to embrace the bedtime moment.


This is Olivia.

She is good at lots of things.

She is good at wearing me out

…since my daughter will only let me read this book to her. She doesn’t wear my daughter out.

Olivia lives with her mother, her father, her brother,

and two pets Perry and Edwin whose names really don’t work well in French.

When Olivia gets dressed, she has to try on everything.

That’s 17 outfits, many of which could be called different things: sweater, jumper, turtleneck or ball-gown, opera-gown, evening-gown, opera dress… And if mummy doesn’t get it just right, Olivia’s #1 Fan reprimands me and makes me start over.

Every day Olivia is supposed to take a nap.

Mummy hates this page because how do you translate “It’s time for your you-know-what” to French? And what about the implied lack of obedience with the next dancing two-page spread headed

Of course Olivia’s not at all sleepy.

#1 Fan loves these 2 pages. “She’s dancing!”

On rainy days, Olivia likes to go to the Museum. There is one painting Olivia just doesn’t get.

- a Jackson Pollock so Olivia is clearly in good company.

“I could do that in about five minutes,” she says to her mother.

#1 Fan’s mother worries that she will also try it at home.

Time Out (and again this in French?!)

“Time out on the naughty steps” echoes #1 Fan.  Maybe I will be saved by #1’s glee at seeing others punished?

After a nice bath,
and a nice dinner,

Mummy wonders why they couldn’t have included some vegetables here.

it’s time for bed.
“But of course Olivia’s not at all sleepy”

Again sowing the seeds of discord.

“Only five books tonight, Mummy” she says.

Followed by:

Well Olivia’s really pushing it. And her mother – I mean what kind of example is she setting? Olivia can’t be more that four or five. Is she negotiating with a four-year-old? And who gets the better deal – they settle on THREE? Right there in black and white, the message:

Children, bug your parents and you will get your way.

Mummy’s adjusted version:

“No Olivia, just one.”
“How about four?”
“One.”
“Three.”
“No Olivia. Just one
and that’s it.”

#1 Fan currently recites this ending along with me. But it is only a matter of time before I am busted.

 Night night Olivia. Tomorrow, same time, same place.