Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I have always said, when you enter a culture, one needs to assimilate to a certain degree.

In this part III of the Europe epilogue, I discuss fitting into the culture.

When we went to Europe, we didn't want to stick out like " sore thumbs" in places, especially Belgium and Germany.

No khaki pants, no jeans, dark pants only, dark socks, no tennis shoes, no white socks, no baseball caps, dark or blue coats/jackets.

You just don't want to look like a "mark" especially in places like Brussels Belgium for the pickpockets.

Belgium is full of thieves. All sorts of gypsies , people from the Ukraine, North Africa, just looking for a way to rob unsuspecting tourists. Americans in general.

We knew we had " fit in" when they started to speak to us in French or German first....

If you go to Europe, let me suggest these things.

- a money belt. for your passport, credit cards, most of your cash. We put a little cash in our pockets for spending money.

- Get a hotel with a room safe. Not for sure how safe they actually are, but we put our medications our iPad in the safe when we went out during the day.

- We didn't let the maid in our room unless we were there. If we needed towels or soap, etc, we met the maid in the hall and traded towels, got soap etc... we told them that our room was okay. You don't change your sheets every night at home, why do you for a couple of evenings at a hotel?

- If you can afford it, rent a car. You can go where you want, when you want. Most places have a free car park.

Just be aware of your surroundings.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Again Kerry, Again Mr. Thomas

So, I was speaking to an ex-student of mine and they kept saying...." Kerry " and then " Mr. Thomas" and then, well....they didn't know. ( Ran into them at of all places Brookshire Bros. In Vidor....don't ask why I was there...)

As I have told them, Kerry is fine. Mr. Thomas is fine.

Whatever you are comfortable with....hell, some of you are 40-50-60-70 years old now.

Everyone I have taught are adults now. Grown people with grown people jobs.

If I was working with you, I'd want you to address me as " Kerry."

So, as I have written in the past, don't get Embarrased about how you address me. However/ whatever you feel the most comfortable with. ( and I know some of you will call me Mr. Thomas forever. And that's fine....but don't do like today, get upset with yourself....)

I Couldn't Do It Anymore.

This week marks the end of 4 years of me being out of education/retired. In August, it'll start the 5th year of me being retired.

It doesn't seem that long. The time literally has flown.

I could not go back and teach.

Oh, physically, with the weight loss, I could do it, but so much has changed in the past, well coming up on 5 years, I could not do it.

I'd have to change my old style, my attitude, the way I acted in class. Teachers now have to compete with cell phones, computers, whatever for a kid's attention.

I sure enough couldn't have a "cuss porch."

From time to time I look on the TEA website to see if my teacher's certificate is still good, but you know, I am not going to use it. I don't really want to. I do not think I would last more that a week with the aggravation.

I could see me cussing someone out the first week...a kid, a parent, another teacher, an administrator.

And we won't even discuss the politics that are involved in teaching....yep, there is politics like you would not believe.

Nope, I am glad I am out.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rails? Papers?

Part II on Europe

I have always been a fan of trains. Us living on the KCS tracks is no mystery.

At one time I loved riding the trains. Rode the Alaskan Railroad from Anchorage To Denali. Have ridden the Silverton to Durango train.

At one time we considered riding the Orange Blossom Special from Beaumont to L.A.

I loved riding the bullet train from London to Brussels. Going 186mph on the rails is pretty cool. Going under the " Chunnel" to France was spooky and cool at the same time.

We ran into problems with the Belgian and German rail system.

It seems the German and Belgian rail workers can strike....well, whenever they like. As a matter of fact, they struck last week and are talking about striking again in two weeks.....and then they overbook the trains in an attempt to get everyone to where they are going, after missing three to four days of service.

We ran into that going from Brussels to....well we wound up in Frankfurt. This was after we made 8 train changes. Many of our trains had been cancelled, and we were packed on the trains like sardines. We would up standing for several hours which is not fun on the last car of a passenger train...it killed my back..( the changing trains did not help.)

It will be a while if ever I ride a train again.

Someone asked me about the tube or subway in London. Was it safe?

Now I do not know if I'd ride the tube at say 1:30am, but during the day, I'd ride it all day. Look, school age girls were riding the subway.

The Tube had its own card called the " Oyster Card" ( why it is called that is a mystery?) and you can load up money for rides on the train. Most people in London have one. They can be used for buses and the regular train( which we also rode in London) and when you are done with the card, they can be redeemed for the remaining money left on the card.

We often rode the subway in the afternoon/evening and at each station, a man was handing out free newspapers. The London Evening Standard. A true evening newspaper. All advertiser supported, and everyone read the paper on the communte. The paper was in tabloid form. Easier to read on the subway. Better than the Beaumont Enterprise...or Houston Chronicle.

I found this unusual in Great Britain. Many people still read a daily actual newspaper. Often several. They could be found in shoppes all over Britain.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I was asked to write a little more on Europe, so we will start off with languages.

You know, in Scotland, as I have said, it was a different form of English and the accent was so thick, we had a hard time understanding a lot of people. That said, we could figure it out. And they started their sentences with really odd adjectives.

The hardest place to understand people was in Northern England. I still do not understand what they were saying to me, and you know, I liked Leeds in West Yorkshire...and everyone said not to go there. The people were friendly, even though they were hard to understand. And Leeds itself was easy to navigate for a city of 700,000. A wonderful city " Centre." And the Scots said avoid the place. I was happy we went...

London was easy to understand. The people there speak the English you hear on the BBC or on Masterpiece Theatre. There are also a huge influx of people from the former British Colonies there.

Brussels was not bad even though it was a "French " speaking city. We were in the tourist part of the town, so we heard all sort of languages, and the people knew enough English to get by. I enjoyed Brussels.

It was in Belgium I discovered that pharmacists often act in the place of doctors, and give medical advice and medication.

Germany....now, they all spoke English. They may not act like they do, but they do. You could go into a Burger King and the person behind the counter understood the order.

My problem was when you tried to speak German. It was like they didn't want us to even try....so, it became easier to speak English...that said, we dressed in dark clothes like the Europeans and often passed as Germans. ( The Germans thought we were Germans...I blame my Germanic spouse.) I missed my khaki colored Dockers. Khakis are not found in Europe.

Will write an ugly blog later on the damn Germans.

Friday, May 22, 2015

It Has Been a While

It has been a while since it has been this wet in SE Texas. I know we lacked rainfall for several years, but I do not think my yard has been this wet....well, ever. And if it has, it has been a long, long time.

We finally got the yard " baled" after our trip to Europe, well the vast majority, and in spots, I am afraid the mower would sink to China. ( We had 1.4 inches on Sunday and then, 1.18 inches on Monday. Yesterday, we only had .44...who knows how much rain we had while we were overseas.)

If it stopped right now and let us dry, I would not complain, but one of the Aggie " weather-guessers" is saying that we are looking at 6 inches of rain Monday-Tuesday....

The other Aggie " weather-guesser" is looking for rain into the first part of the month of June.

And it is like this in NE Texas. We spoke Dean Cox, the man who actually farms next to our place in Franklin County and they can't do anything. They are behind on planting, and it doesn't look like they will be planting anything, anytime soon.

It looks so wet Memorial Day that cooking outside looks iffy at best. It might be a good day to put the cooker under some sort of shed and just do burgers and hot dogs....or maybe cook a pot of something on the stove inside the house. Pinto beans and sausage?

For Baptists Only

As many of you know, I studied to become a Baptist minister at one time. God saved me from that vocation in my life and sent me to Buna, Texas. ( Seriously, I believe that.) For a while, I even worked with the old Home Mission Board before it became the Southern Baptist's North American Mission Board, and did some work on the Rio Grande River and in the panhandle of Idaho.

That said, I am nominally Baptist today at best. And at some point, I will convert to another denomination, most likely, Anglican or a High-Church Methodist. ( If you really want to know why I wait, send me a pm, I'll tell you.)

And there are only two groups within the SBC ( Southern Baptist Convention) that I really like to donate money to. Annie Armstrong for American Missions and Lottie Moon for Foreign Missions.

So, I was minding my own business and I read an article in " Christianity Today."

It seems that the SBC's International Mission Board ( IMB) is going to relax standards for missionaries.

They are going to allow the following.

1. Future missionaries to have their own private language in which to speak to God, in other words, " tongues." ( if they want)

2. They are going to allow some missionaries that have been divorced to serve as long term missionaries.

3. If you were baptized in another church or denomination other than SBC, that baptism would be acceptable.

4. If you have teenage children, you can serve as missionaries.

Let me dispose of three and four first.

I don't care how you were baptized. A good Methodist sprinkle is as good as a Baptist dunking. Jesus was baptized only one time and he didn't ask John what his theological beliefs were. If you are baptized in whatever denomination, or form of church, it is acceptable. Remember, Baptists still teach, baptism doesn't save you.

Concerning teenage children going on a mission trip with their parents. That is a private matter between the kids and the parents. Often the kid maybe more important in the mission than the parents. And the kids might actually be feeling the call....you do not know...

With those two disposed of, lets look at numbers one and two.

Tongues....in the 1970s when I was a youth, this was beat to death in our Sunday School, Church Training classes. There was no bigger no-no according to our ministers, our Sunday School teachers, anyone who was anyone within the SBC...As one leader in the convention explained it, " It is a separating factor between us and the Pentecostals. "

Man, I do not know. Personally, I see nothing wrong with tongues. Some of my best friends speak and have spoken in tongues, It isn't for me, but if you want to do so, or feel the Hold Spirit leading you to do so, then, have at it....the trouble is, historically, doctrinally, it isn't SBC....and a lot of churches are going to have trouble with this.

The question I have is this, there are people who teach that tongues must be spoken when you receive the Holy Spirit when you are saved....Will some missionaries who practice tongues " go rouge" and teach this? ( In other words, to be saved, you must speak in an " unknown language.")

I hate to tell some of you, but salvation ain't that complicated. If it were, none of us would make it.

Divorce- Once again, I am a child of the 60s and 70s. Divorce was frowned upon like you would not believe. Trouble was, twofold. People stayed married even though one or both partners were miserable. Wives often endured beatings just to avoid divorce. In those days the only reason people "Biblically" could divorce was due to adultery...and even then, they often told the other spouse to forgive.

And due to the SBC stance on divorce, I saw many people either be forced from the ministry due to divorce, or quality male candidates be passed over for a deacon's position because while they themselves were not divorced, had married a lady who had been divorced.

This said, there are so many people divorced today. Most were for pretty darn good reasons. Adultery, spousal abuse, narcotics, drunkenness, won't work, gambling...or they are just sorry individuals.( both male and female.)

Once again, depending on the circumstance, I can see missionaries who had been divorced.

So, if you are Southern Baptist, you might want to be aware in changes. Part of your tithe goes to the Cooperative Program and part of that is the mission program.